Residential Safety Tips
The Bureau of Justice Statistics defines household burglary as “unlawful or forcible entry or attempted entry of a residence.” This crime usually, but not always, involves theft. The illegal entry may be made by force, such as breaking a window or slashing a screen, or may be made without force by entering through an unlocked door or an open window. As long as the person entering has no legal right to be present in the structure, including a garage, shed or other structure on the premises, a burglary has occurred.
Of all the major criminal offenses, residential burglary is perhaps the most common. A burglary is reported every 15 seconds in the United States. 67 percent of all burglaries involve forcible entry, with over half (52 percent) occurring during the daylight hours. Most residential burglaries are crimes of opportunity. The burglars devote very little time to advance planning and they are looking for quick, safe targets. Thus, the more a homeowner does to keep the home from looking like an easy target, the safer the home usually is.
Intrusion alarm systems, or burglar alarms, can provide valuable protection if installed correctly by a reliable vendor and, above all, used responsibly. The existence of an alarm system is a major determining factor in the selection of an intruder’s targets; most would prefer to go elsewhere when faced with the possibility of an alarm. Commercial and residential alarm permits are available through the City of Golden and are good through December 31 of the year filed. The permit application is available by download below, or a copy may be picked up at the Golden Police Station at 911 10th St.
You can take several steps to reduce false alarms. The first is to identify their causes.
1. For homeowners, some of the common causes are:
- Using incorrect keypad codes. 49% of the time the wrong code was entered.
- Failing to train authorized users.
- Failure to secure doors and windows once the alarm is turned on.
- Failure to set the right alarm mode; homeowners set the alarm for “Away” mode instead of “Stay” mode and then remain on-site or have wandering pets.
- Re-entering the home just after leaving without disarming (assuming the exit delay is long enough to compensate).
- Objects hanging by or around motion detectors.
- Weak system batteries.
- Faulty equipment.
- Acts of nature (strong winds, electrical storms, etc.).
False alarms due to faulty equipment or acts of nature are rare. The single largest cause of false alarms is human error.
2. Before activating your alarm system:
- Lock all protected doors and windows.
- Keep pets, balloons, fans, heaters, plants, curtains, seasonal decorations, etc. away from motion sensor areas.
- Educate alarm system users
- Train them on how to operate your system.
- They should have knowledge of correct arming codes, pass codes, telephone numbers and procedures for canceling accidental alarm activations.
3. Notify your security company if you plan on going on vacation:
- Tell them what days you will be gone.
- Tell them whether or not anyone is authorized to be in your home while you are away.
- Update your emergency contact information, including who has keys to your home.
- Give them a number to reach you, preferably a cell phone number, should your alarm system activate while you are away.
4. Have your security company check and service your system regularly:
- Routine maintenance can help prevent many false alarms.
- It is a recognized fact that good lighting is a deterrent to crime. It not only makes the area safer for the homeowner, but also forces the intruder to work in an area where he may be exposed and reported to the police.
- Lighting should be placed in an area that cannot be easily reached by an intruder and should light entry doors and carports or garages.
- Photocell or motion detection lighting can be helpful for the forgetful homeowner. Photocell lighting turns on automatically at dusk and off at dawn as long as the switch inside the home stays on. Motion detection lighting is helpful if a light is disruptive to neighbors. This type of light would be activated by motion in the area.
Landscaping and Plant Materials
Bushes, trees, and shrubbery can conceal a potential intruder as he attempts entry into a window or door, or waits in hiding for the homeowner. Trim shrubbery and trees so doors and windows are visible to neighbors and from the street. Prune trees so they can’t help a thief climb to second story windows.
- Ground plants (shrubbery and bushes) within four (4) feet of any sidewalks, driveways, doors or gates should be no taller than two (2) feet.
- Ground plants between four (4) feet and eight (8) feet of any sidewalks, driveways doors or gates should be no taller than four (4) feet.
- Ground plants under windows should be maintained at a height that is below the window sill.
- Trees should be trimmed to that lower branched are more than six (6) feet off the ground.
- Planting spiny or thorny plants along fences and under windows can discourage possible burglars.
Doors are usually the burglar’s first choice of entry into a home. Believe it or not, some residents leave exterior doors unlocked. In other entries, the burglar simply breaks the door or a side light and reaches in and unlocks the door.
- Exterior doors should be of solid core (wood, not composite materials) or steel, 2 ¾ inch thick is preferred.
- Entry doors should fit their frames tightly, with no more than 1/8 inch clearance between the door and the frame.
- Entry doors should have a wide angle (180º) door viewer to permit the occupant to see visitors without opening the door.
Deadbolt locks, installed correctly, provide good protection for an entry door.
- The bolt should extend a least 1” from the front edge of the door (called a 1” throw).
- The connecting screws that hold the lock together should be on the inside of the door.
- The strike plate should be attached to the door frame with screws that measure at least 3” in length.
- The cylinder should have a steel guard – a ring around the key section. The cylinder guard should be tapered or rotate around the key section (if twisted) to prevent wrenching.
Windows can be a way for a burglar to enter a home. The primary interest in securing windows is to eliminate entry by prying open or breaking a small area of glass to reach a single latch.
- Double Hung Windows – These are the most common type of window found in homes. Factory supplied locks are easily jimmied or pried open and represent only temporary obstacles to the determined burglar
- Casement, Hopper, or Awning Windows – These window styles generally hinge or pivot at one point and the locks used on such windows may have lever handles that actually pull the windows tightly closed. They may also have cranks located on the frame which, when rotated, extend the windows to the open position. In most cases, the locks used with these styles are reasonable secure.
- Basement Windows – Basement windows in a house often represent a unique security problem. Basement windows are nearly always located at or below grade. This makes the window difficult to secure and particularly vulnerable to intrusion. Window glass can be replaced with a polycarbonate material giving the windows extra strength to withstand repeated blows. Ornamental security bars or grills covering the inside or outside of a window can be a good way to keep out burglars. If not installed correctly, however, such security precautions could trap the occupant inside during an emergency such as a fire. If security bars or grills are installed on windows, there should be at least one window in each room that can be released or removed from the inside without a key or special tool. They should never be installed on the windows of sleeping rooms.