A Mighty Fortress is Our Home

An Ex-CIA agent tells how to keep intruders out. For starters, lock the door.

Let’s start by accepting a lot of the blame ourselves. We are lazy. We want to be able to rush out a door, fling it closed on the run, and have the door instantly secure from intruders.

It is axiomatic that something easy to close is easy to open. Read that again. It is very important to what follows.

Most people outside the lock industry would not know a good lock if they saw one.

One builder told me that of the hundreds of houses he has built, only one guy ever asked him about the type of locks to be used. “Everyone spends their time and money picking out special tile for the bath, colored toilets, fancy carpets, and expensive lighting fixtures, but no one asks about the locks. I end up using the same $5 lock on a $30,000 or a $150,000 house.” A representative of a major lock maufacturer has observed that a person who builds apartments for resale will generally use a cheaper, less secure, type of lock. If he intends to retain the property for rental, he will use a better grade of lock.

Accept the fact that a secure lock will take some effort to open and close, and that a good lock costs money. Because the lock industry is very competitive, price is a pretty good guideline to quality. Your builder can get them for you. If you move into a house or apartment that has inferior locks, there are good auxiliary locks you can install to upgrade your security. I intend to take my $45 deadbolt with me when I move.

The retailer has to stock items that will sell. You can find some adequate locks in hardware, discount, and department stores, but you have to know what you are looking for. It makes little sense to try to upgrade your $5 lock with anther $5 lock. Many retailers do have an excellent selection of optical viewers, chains, bolts, and security hardware for use on windows and patio doors. But if you are seeking top-flight security for your doors, you ought to drop into your local locksmith shop. No competant security man will tell you that you can be “burglar-proof” your house or apartment; however, you can reduce your risk of forced entry to an absolute minimum.

Most burglars are not particularly skilled. They get the job done with a screwdriver, a jimmy bar, a hammer, a hacksaw, or other hand-tools. They do have emotions and they are not operating in a vacuum. They have pressures on them to complete their job quickly, quietly, and in seclusion. Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI) statistics show that 50 per cent of those arrested for burglary are less than eighteen years of age. More than 80 per cent are less than 25.

If we put good locks on our doors and windows, a burglar will not generally be willing to spend the time and make the noise that is required to make an entry; he can find enough unlocked doors, easily bypassed locks, and keys in mailboxes to make his quota. By installing the best locks that are available, we can practically deny a burglar access with the use of ordinary tools.

Few burglars carry guns. They are intent on stealing without running into anyone. As he stands there by our door or window, perhaps he is remembering a newspaper headline, “Homeowner Shoots Prowler.”

The average burglar, if he is confronted, or even threatened with confrontation, will usually run like hell. Of course, even a relatively passive person will lash out if he is cornered. If you come face to face with a burglar, stay calm (easy to say), and give him plenty of room to escape.

What about the junkie—the guy that has to get some dough for a fix? There is no question that a majority of burglars are involved with drugs in some fashion. Veteran narcotics officers estimate that between 50 and 80 per cent of burgalrs are “on drugs,” but when committing a burglary, an addict is generally “level;” that is, he has had his quota of drugs and is in a pretty stable period. Put yourself in an addict’s position. Would you want to be trying to break into a house, fence the merchandise, and make a drug connection—in the space of a couple of hours before a deadline for a fix?

As one officer pointed out, residential burglary is kind of a roundabout way to support a drug habit. Addicts may prefer to forge prescriptions, steal a doctor’s bag, burglarize a drug store, or write bad checks. I do not want to dismiss the addict/burglar as being no threat, but the public image of the wild-eyed, drug-crazed addict bashing down doors with reckless abandon is a bit exaggerated. As many parents have discovered when their children have taken to drugs, it is not easy to spot and addict from his behavior. He may exhibit little “abnormal” behavior.

“Maybe there are good locks for doors,” you say, “but all a burglar has to do is break out a window.” Just remember, burglar protection is nothing more than putting the odds in your favor.

Locks on Doors

One of the reasons that a burglar would prefer to go through a door is that is how authorized persons are expected to gain access. If you or I see a person climbing through a window, that is out


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