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Protecting Your Home From Burglars

According to the FBI, there are more than 2 million burglaries every year and most of them are happening in homes where the crooks are often walking right through the front door.

Consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen offered some facts about break-ins.

  • Most happen during the day.
  • The front door is the number one point of entry for thieves.
  • Unfortunately, most of us don't do a good job of securing our homes.

    It can happen any day, any time, a thief is casing your house, looking for an easy way to break in.

    "Nine times out of 10 it's easy to walk in and it's unlocked, I'm telling you from experience," said Walter Shaw, a former professional burglar.

    Over the course of several decades he's broken into hundreds of homes and stolen millions of dollars in goods. He's even written a book about it. Getting into homes, he says, was always a piece of cake.

    "Doesn't matter," Shaw said. "I don't care if they're $200,000 homes or $50 million houses, they all have weak spots. All of them. They all have holes in their system."

    A major weak spot -- the front door. The problem, homeowners often leave them unlocked or the locks they do have just aren't enough to keep a crook out.

    "What's kind of common is they'll walk up and knock and see if you're home," said Larry Karch of State Farm Insurance Co. "Once you're not at home it's just a matter of standing back and boom, they kick the front door in and then they're in your home and they can do that very quickly."

    Karch demonstrated just how easy it is to break in a door and what homeowners can do about it at State Farm's research lab outside Chicago.

    "First of all, this is probably one of the most common areas when a door is kicked in," Karch said. "It's going to break at the strike plate and there's a reason for that. You'll notice that this wood isn't very thick and they use very short screws in this area. There's not very much holding this door in place."

    Karch recommends replacing those short screws with longer, three-inch screws -- an inexpensive fix.

    "If you use a longer three-inch screw, that three-inch screw attaches to the structure of the building," Karch said. "Now you have to kick in the building practically to break into the door. So just by replacing the screw you can significantly improve the performance of your door."

    And having the right kind of lock is key. Not all deadbolts are made the same, and using just the lock on your doorknob isn't enough to keep someone out.

    Using a device that simulates the weight of a crook using his body to bust through a locked door, Koeppen demonstrates that it's easy to get in. Even using a crow bar and slight pressure - it's not difficult to pop open a locked door.

    "Do you think most people think they're secure with what they had?" Koeppen asked. "I mean, they had the handle with the lock, they had what looks like a deadbolt."

    "Unfortunately, you're right. Most people do feel they're secure with this and some people don't even have a dead bolt," Karch said. "They just have the latch bolt or the doorknob type of lock, so they really aren't safe as they feel they are."

    Karch says all doors should have grade 1 dead bolts and for added protection, reinforce your doors with metal plates that attach near the locks and along the door jamb.

    In a demonstration with this device on a reinforced door -- with top notch locks -- the door doesn't budge.

    Walter Shaw says homeowners need to think about guys like him -- and do a better job of protecting their homes.

    "When they're buying a home or setting up a house, they don't think about being burglarized," Shaw said. "They always think it's going to be the neighbor or somebody down the street. 'It couldn't happen to me' and that's when it does happen to you.

    Moral of the story -- you need locks, lots of them and good ones.

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