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American Sheepdog Online CCW Resource Magazine - Defense In Depth, Part I
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  • Defense In Depth, Part I

    A recent thread on safe rooms got the "squirrels" busy in my head. I made a short comment and then went to bed. Actually I had made a longer comment, but when I hit post it disappeared into the ether. When I woke up this afternoon I revisited the thread and made another post. The "squirrels", which had woken me up, were not happy. So, here I am in front of my computer after only a few hours sleep.

    Defense in Depth, or layered defense, is a concept that is as old as man. Basically it means "making my stuff hard to get to." So, how can this concept can be applied your home, without it starting to look like the neighborhood fortress?

    You must realize the following. 1) You cannot prevent crime. You can only deter it. Given enough time any criminal can break into almost any home. 2) Criminals prefer easy/soft targets. 3) Everything has a cost. While you don't have to spend a fortune on hardening your home, you generally get what you pay for. Cheap will cost you twice.

    Start from the outside when developing your personal defense strategy for your home. Take a look at the exterior of your house both during the day and at night. Go outside your home at various times to see what a criminal would see. Are the curtains open, giving a view from the street of all the great things you have in the living room? Can you get up close to a window and see into your kids bedrooms? Into your bedroom? Are there places to hide with little or no light, or with shrubs to hide behind?

    Once you have identified the areas of risk around the exterior you need to take steps to correct them. Good quality motion activated lights are readily available at most home centers and they are easy to install. If you have shrubs around and under windows, trim them so that they do not provide areas of cover in which criminals can hide. If you don't have shrubs, but are thinking of doing some landscaping, consider decorative plants with thorny leaves or even thorns. Roses, holly, barberry, etc are examples.

    Make sure storage sheds and tools are properly secured. Criminals would rather use your tools to break into your house than have to carry their own. If you have fences make sure all gates are locked. "Beware of Dog" signs on fences, even if you don't have a dog, along with some large chew toys thrown about can create doubt in a criminals mind. (The cadets at the bootcamp tell me that they do not like dealing with dogs when choosing a house to rob.)

    Consider getting an alarm system. Prices and capability vary a great deal. There are so many choices available I obviously can't mention them all. However, many people have alarm systems in their homes but don't always use them. With home invasions becoming more common, alarm systems need to be used even while at home. If you cannot afford an alarm system, as a minimum think about putting alarm company signs in your yard, preferably from real companies. The criminals know about the fake signs people use. Remember, you are trying to create doubt in the criminals mind as to whether he wants to rob you or your neighbor. You cannot prevent, you can only deter.

    This next statement may seem obvious to some, but you would be surprised how often criminals enter through unlocked doors and windows. This is specially true as the weather gets warmer and people want fresh air in their homes. Check the locks on all exterior doors and windows to make sure they work. There are assorted clamps and devices available that will keep windows from opening more than a few inches. This allows fresh air to come in while limiting access. A less expensive option is to use a small block of wood screwed into the windows rail.

    The exterior doors to most homes are of solid construction, solid being a relative term. French doors, while beautiful, are an open invitation to a break in, unless they are of really good quality. The same goes for sliding doors. Check to make sure the part that slides is in the INSIDE of your house. The weakest point of most doors is the hinge. If you remove one of the screws from the hinge on your door you will most likely find a one inch long wood screw that is just better than worthless. The screws that hold the strike plate may not even be that long. They are use to hold parts in place, not secure the door.

    Most hinges have four screw holes in them. You need to replace at least two of the four screws with 3" long hardened security screws on each hinge plate, including the ones attached to the door. These screws need to long enough to go all the way into the studs surrounding the doors frame. If possible you should replace the strike plate with a high security strike plate. (It looks like a strike plate with a box attached to it where the deadbolts throw goes.) These have four screw holes in them, one each on top and bottom and two in the "box." Use the 3" screws here too. If you can't replace the exisitng strike plate, as a minimum replace the small screws with the 3" screws.

    A good quality dead bolt is essential. Do not go cheap here! Deadbolts must have a throw (the exposed bolt when in the locked position) of at least one inch past the strike plate. Why one inch? Because that is how much a door frame may expand when pressure is applied with a crowbar or large screw driver. That is also why long hardened screws have to be in the studs around the door. The frame itself is largely decorative and covers the gap between the door and the studs. The decision on whether to use a single sided or double side deadbolt depends on your lifestyle and the location and type of door. We'll discuss that in the Part II.

    Using simple and inexpensive methods can go a long way in detering criminal activity. Exterior lighting, defensive plants, decoy signs, locking the doors and windows cost very little and can save a great deal.
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. texengineer's Avatar
      texengineer -
      Thanks Sgt T! Unfortunately I'm limited in what I can do to my place right now...since it's a townhouse. Someone tried to kick in our door at some point. We noticed one day that the front door (solid wood) was cracked up and down from the handle latch, and the frame was too. It couldn't have been someone who actually wanted to gain entry, unless they were absolutely mentally incompetent since there's a sliding glass door in the front room also. Anyways, we got the door all fixed up with 3" screws going into the studs for the strike plate, and hidden bolts and wood glue completely sealing up and holding together the cracked door and frame.

      I'll be sure to come back to this post in a year or so when I have a house! It's amazing how many little things we overlook when thinking about home security. There's a military surplus store here in town that has a yellow metal sign that says "Never mind the Dog, Beware of Gun Owner". I think a couple of those might help deter a few wandering eyes as well

      Here is is:
    1. Sgt T's Avatar
      Sgt T -
      Beware the "Never mind the dog, Beware of Gun Owner" sign. 1) It tells people you have guns inside. Criminals are patient, being unemployed they have the time to wait for you to leave then break in. 2) The sign implys an intent or desire to do harm. I do not recommend them. Concealed carry includes you home as well.
    1. texengineer's Avatar
      texengineer -
      Good point. I just thought that it was clever
    1. Rossi's Avatar
      Rossi -
      Good points. I work with houses in bad neighborhoods. Can't stress enough good doors, frames, and locks. Kwikset's Titans are a good buy. A little pricey, but with 6-pin tumblers, the frames tend to go before the lock will. Suggest a pair, hand set plus the dead bolt.

      It's also a good idea to pay special attention to walk-out basement doors, a favorite weak spot in many homes. Many tend to open out (fire codes) which is's rather difficult to kick open a door that opens out. "Horseshoe" brackets with a 2x4 drop-in tends to deter bad behavior.

      Don't forget basement windows. Steel bars or solid glass concreted bricks are good options.


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