Thursday, June 4, 2015

Time To Keep The Burglars Out

This is my beginning-of-summer reminder about keeping your house safe and secure during the warm months.

Last summer, one of the most prevalent crimes in Norristown was burglary, for 2 main reasons. One is that people left windows open in their houses when they went out, or when they're sleeping, or even when they were home but in another part of the house. Two, people put portable air conditioning units in first floor windows or upper floor windows that are easily accessed from outside, but failed to secure the A/C unit in any way other than closing the upper sash on it.

Sure, we all want to lure those great summer breezes into our homes, but screens that can either be opened from the outside or often peeled back to create an opening. When you're out of the house, even for a short time, close and lock your windows.

Most newer windows have a locking mechanism on the upper sash, right above the lower sash, that will allow you to open the window about 2 to 4 inches, but it can't be opened farther. Most of my downstairs windows have these locks and I use them when I'm upstairs working in my office, or even when I have to run a short errand and expect to be back quickly. I also use them on my front bedroom windows overnight because that's right above a porch roof. That way I can have the windows open but no one can get in without breaking glass (which most burglars will avoid at all costs--they don't want to make noise).

For older windows, jalousies are the only one that could probably be considered safe when open. For sliding windows, you can put a stick or metal rod in the track to prevent the window from being opened past a certain point.

For old wooden double-hung windows, you can buy a little thumbscrew device at most hardware/ home stores that fit into the track above the lower sash. Put it right above the lower sash to lock the window completely. Put it 2 to 4 inches above the sash if you want the window to open a bit, but not far enough for anyone to climb in. They also sell similar security catches for casement windows.

But when it's really hot, you might want A/C. Last year, the NPD had lots of reports of burglars simply raising window sashes, lifting A/C units out, and climbing inside. Most portable A/C units come with instructions and hardware for screwing the unit to the window frame. These screws not only keep your house or office secure, they also keep the unit from rattling if the window frame or sash is old and loose. If there's some reason you can't screw your unit into the frame--maybe your landlord won't let you--at least get the window locks mentioned in the last paragraph and put them directly above the top of the lower sash so the window can't be opened any farther and the A/C unit removed.

If you go away, even for an overnight or a short weekend, make sure all your windows and doors are locked and any A/C units can't be removed. You might even want to remove the A/C unit for the time you're away and lock that window. Put decent locks on your doors and use them. Use timers on a few lamps so it looks like you're home. If you have neighbors you trust, ask them to take in your mail and keep an eye on your house.

And be a good neighbor yourself. Keep an eye on the houses next door to you if your neighbors are out.

The NPD has been doing a great job keeping crime down in the borough. We can help them by simply securing our windows and doors, and by being vigilant.  

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