Friday, October 3, 2014

Security Tips

Family Security

Family is at the center of most anyone's universe. Most people would do almost anything for their family, including protecting them from known dangers and harm. Protecting your family becomes increasingly difficult because we live in an open society where we share the same public places as criminals. The only place where we really have any control over our environment is in our home.

Whenever a family member leaves the home, they leave the zone of protection you have created. You should develop a good family security plan to keep your family members reasonably safe once they leave the home. To properly create a family security plan, you must first examine the public routines of each family member and then develop the actions necessary that can protect them from criminals.

A smart way to begin creating a proper family security plan is to talk about different "what if" scenarios with each family member. For example: if this happens, what will I do? When developing a family security plan, you should create safety precautions and protective measures to employ when you use the ATM machine, shop at the mall or walking to your automobile on the street at night should anyone attempt to assault or rob you.

Sidebar: in many cases, the victim is still murdered even though they do precisely what the perpetrator says. Doing exactly what they say doesn't ensure your safety or survival. You may want to develop defensive tactics and prepare to fight back if ever in a deadly situation. Fight for your life!

Security at Shopping Centers and Malls

Even though shopping centers and malls come in different sizes, the one thing they all have in common is a parking lot. You are at greatest risk in parking lots. Criminals can more easily blend in with the rest of us in parking lots. Criminal predators can easily walk by us in parking lots without us knowing it because of the public setting. 

Many shoppers walk to and from their vehicle not aware of the dangers around them because they are consumed by their thoughts. Many crimes at shopping centers and malls occur when shoppers are distracted by fumbling for their car keys and putting shopping bags or children into their vehicle, taking attention away from anyone nearby. You should always have your car key out and ready to unlock your vehicle so you can quickly enter and secure yourself inside your vehicle. You should always think about your safety.

The best defense is awareness. Awareness can allow you to plan ahead and anticipate dangerous situations that might occur. Good planning including selecting safe times to shop and making arrangements not to shop alone if at all possible, and where to park your automobile. Of course, the safest time to shop is during daylight hours, and the best place to park is in high traffic areas and not next to large automobiles.

Visually scan the parking lot for suspicious people before parking and exiting your vehicle and when walking to your vehicle after shopping. You should always enter and exit your automobile quickly and immediately secure your automobile. Look around the area where your automobile is parked before approaching it and retreat inside a store if anyone suspicious is loitering in the area.

  • Be alert to predators in the parking lot
  • Plan when to go and where to park
  • Never get out of your automobile if it isn't safe to do
  • Scan the area around your vehicle as you approach it
  • Enter and exit your automobile quickly and lock the doors
  • Retreat inside a store if anyone looks or acts suspicious

Home Security

Protecting your home and family from criminal intrusion should be high on your list of priorities. The most common threat to anyone's home is burglary. According to the FBI, a burglary occurs every 15 minutes somewhere in the United States.

Burglary isn't always a non-confrontational crime. Sometimes, burglars are caught in the act and attack the person who caught them. Becoming a victim of burglary can be devastating, leaving a person feeling vulnerable and violated. The majority of house and apartment burglaries occur during the daytime when people are at work or school.

Burglaries are normally committed by young males, less than 25 years old, looking for items that are small, expensive and can be easily converted into cash. The favorite items for burglars are cash, jewelry, small electronic devices, and firearms.

Burglars prefer to gain access to a dwelling through an unlocked door or open window. However, statistics show that 70% of burglars use some amount of force to enter dwellings using ordinary household tools like screwdrivers, small pry bars and channel-lock pliers.

Although home burglaries might seem random in occurrence, they actually involve a selection process. The burglar's selection process involves choosing an unoccupied home with the easiest access, the greatest amount of cover and best escape routes.

You can minimize your risk by making your home unattractive to potential burglars. The first step is to "harden the target" - making your home difficult to enter. Burglars generally will avoid a home that requires a lot of effort to enter. The more you "harden the target" the better.

Many burglars enter a home through the back or side doors. Experienced burglars know that the garage door (when connected to the house) is usually the weakest point of entry into a house followed by the back door. Garage doors and back doors provide the most cover for burglars.

To properly secure exterior doors, use high quality Grade 1 locks to prevent twisting, prying and lock picking; use quality deadbolt lock, which has a beveled casing to inhibit the use of channel-lock pliers to shear off lock cylinder pins; use a quality door knob-in-lock set, which has a dead latch mechanism to prevent someone from slipping the lock with a shim or credit card.

  • Use a solid core or metal door for exterior doors 
  • Use a heavy duty deadbolt lock with a 1 inch throw bolt 
  • Use a knob-in-lock set with a dead-latch mechanism 
  • Use a wide-angle peephole on your front door

The weakest point on most doors is the strike plate that holds the latch or lock bolt in place. The average strike plate on a door is secured with only lightweight door frame molding and can be torn away with a firm kick.

You should upgrade to a four screw, heavy duty high security strike plate using three inch wood screws to cut deep into the door frame stud. Use long screws in the door knob lock strike plate and use two long screws in each door hinge for added strength. This will deter most door forced entries.

Because of inherently defective latch mechanisms, sliding glass doors are very vulnerable to being easily forced open from the outside. You can prevent this from happening by inserting a thick wooden dowel or thick stick into the door's track or using track blockers that can be screwed down onto the track (door stoppers.)

Since older sliding glass doors can be lifted off their track somewhat easily, you should install anti-lift devices such as a pin that extends through both the sliding and fixed portion of the door. You can find many locking and blocking devices to prevent a sliding glass door from being lifted or forced open in most any hardware store.

It is wise to place a highly visible alarm system decal and beware of dog decal on sliding glass doors near the door latch. Burglars usually avoid alarm systems and dogs for obvious reasons.

  • Place a blocking device into the track of sliding glass doors
  • Keep the latch in good working condition and properly adjusted
  • Keep rollers in good working condition and properly adjusted
  • Use anti-lift devices on sliding glass doors like through-the-door pins
  • Display visible alarm system and beware of dog decals near the latch

Windows are left unlocked or open more often than doors. An open window seen from the street might be the sole reason for your home to be selected by a burglar. Ground floor windows are susceptible to break-ins for obvious reasons. Upper floor windows become attractive to burglars if they can be accessed from a stairway, balcony, tree or fence.

You should use blocking devices on windows such as track blockers that are screwed down onto the track because windows have latches not locks. A blocking device can prevent a person from sliding the window open from the outside. Through-the-frame pins work well for vertical sliding windows and wooden dowels work well for horizontal sliding windows. It's wise not to allow the window to open more than five inches and it's critical that you make sure that no one can reach inside the window from the outside and remove the blocking device.

In sleeping rooms, window blocking devices must be capable of being easily removed from the inside for safety reasons - to escape a fire - and to comply with fire codes. Employing anti-lift devices are necessary to effectively secure ground level and aluminum windows that slide horizontally.

To prevent the window from being lifted out in the closed position, install screws half way into the upper track of the movable glass panel. As a good deterrent, put highly visible alarm system, beware of dog and other crime prevention decals on ground level window.

  • Secure all windows with blocking devices
  • Allow windows to open no more than five inches
  • Make sure no one can reach inside and remove the blocking device from outside
  • Use anti-lift devices to prevent windows from lifted out
  • Put alarm and beware of dog decals on ground level windows


A home that is dark inside at night sends the message to burglars that you are away. Interior lighting is necessary to show signs of activity inside your residence. To deter burglars, you should use light timers. Light timers should be used when you are not at home. They click the light on and off to simulate occupancy. The same light timers can also be used to turn on radios and televisions to further enhance the illusion of occupancy. It is also comforting to enter a lit residence.

Exterior lighting is also important and becomes critical if you have to park in a common area parking lot or underground garage and need to walk to your front door. The purpose of good lighting is to allow you to see if a threat (suspicious person) is lurking in your path. If you can see a potential threat in advance, you have an opportunity to avoid it. Exterior lighting should be bright enough for you to see at least 100 feet. Good lighting is definitely a deterrent against criminals because they don't want to be seen or identified.

Another important area that should be well lit is the perimeter of your home especially at the entryway. Lighting on the front of any property should always be on a timer to establish an appearance of occupancy at all times. Using security lights with infrared motion sensors is a smart way to deter burglars. The heat motion sensor can be adjusted to detect body heat and can be programmed to reset after only one minute.

  • Use interior light timers to show occupancy
  • Exterior lighting should give you 100 feet visibility
  • Use good lighting along the pathway and at your door
  • Use light timers to automatically turn lights on and off
  • Use infrared motion censor security lights

Alarm Systems

Alarm systems definitely have a place in a home security plan and can be very effective if used properly. Alarm systems increase the
possibility of a burglar being caught by the police. Burglars will normally bypass a property with visible alarm decals or signs. Never write your alarm system pass code on or anywhere near the alarm keypad.

Alarm systems need to be properly installed and maintained. Alarm systems should have an audible horn or bell to be effective in case someone does break into your home and should be programmed to automatically reset after only one or two minutes. Alarm systems also can monitor for fire. If you use a central station to monitor your alarm, make sure your notification call list is always up-to-date.

  • Alarm systems can be effective deterrents
  • Alarm systems must be properly installed, programmed, and maintained to be effective
  • Alarm systems need to have an audible horn or bell to be effective and should automatically reset after only 1 or 2 minutes
  • Make sure your notification call list is up-to-date

You should never open your front door when someone knocks unless you know the person. Make sure you have a wide-angle peephole on your door so you can have a visual identification of anyone knocking.


Having a fire-resistant safe that cannot be easily moved is a smart investment. A home safe is designed to keep the smash and grab burglar, curious children, dishonest babysitters, housekeepers, and nannies from gaining access to important personal property. It's wise to anchor a home safe into the floor or permanent shelving.


We recommend that you photograph your valuables in their location around your home and make a list of their make, model and serial numbers. This is important for proof when filing an insurance claim. Be sure to safeguard your list.

Keep receipts of items in case you need to prove their value, and photocopy important documents. Keep receipts and photocopied documents in a secure place. Engrave your name on all electronic devices -- TV's, stereos, computers.

© Brian Blackwell Investigations 1998

Brian Blackwell Investigations | Seattle, WA 
Licensed Private Investigator