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Contact Victor Aguilar for locksmith service and queries. Victor Aguilar is rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau. He has 25 years of experience as a commercial locksmith.

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Most Common Types of Burglary

Let us recall Aesop’s fable of the three tradesmen:

The citizens of a certain city were debating about the best material to use in the fortifications which were about to be erected for the greater security of the town. A carpenter got up and advised the use of wood, which he said was readily procurable and easily worked. A stone mason objected to wood on the ground that it was so inflammable, and recommended stones instead. Then a tanner got on his legs and said, “In my opinion there’s nothing like leather.”

Asking what the most common type of burglary is and, hence, where your money for security should be invested, is similar to Aesop’s fable. The locksmith will advise you to buy better locks; the glazier will advise you to buy better windows; and the security company will advise you to hire a guard to patrol your community. And everyone that you talk to will loudly trumpet their own expertise – unlike those other charlatans – as “fact based,” derived from their own vast experience at thwarting or at least repairing the damage from actual burglaries.

Of course, if your lock is broken, then you will call a locksmith; if your window is shattered, then you will call a glazier; and if you are seeing prowlers, you will call a security company. So both the locksmith and the glazier can – in all honesty – tell you that every burglary he has been called on to repair was an attack on the lock or the window, respectively. And the security guard will report equally vast experience chasing off prowlers, though he will not be able to recall what, if any, burglary tools they were carrying. So, like those fabled townsfolk, you too will hear from three tradesmen, each with “fact based” but contradictory advice, and each demanding your attention and security dollars.

Perhaps we should consult the police? Everybody who has been burgled can recall a nice and ever-so-sympathetic officer sitting at their kitchen table for as long as an hour, drinking their coffee and interviewing them, asking repeatedly for their every movement the previous evening and everything else about the events surrounding their discovery of the break in. News flash! This is not an interview; it is an interrogation. Officer Friendly is not investigating the burglar; he is investigating you, for insurance fraud. If he deigns to file a burglary report, then you can collect insurance. If his famous (in his own mind) ability to look into people’s eyes and determine when they are lying indicates that he thinks you sold the stuff on E-Bay and then staged a burglary, he will report this fact to his masters, who are the insurance companies.

Of course, not to be entirely cynical, if there are fingerprints on the door or window that are not yours, they will be recorded. Unlike on TV, the police do not “run them” in the sense of checking them against the other 300 million people in America. But they do record them so, if a burglar is later caught red-handed in the neighborhood, he can be convicted of burgling your home as well as the one he was caught in. Many burglars are very parochial – probably because they do not own a car – and such delayed convictions are not uncommon. Also, some burglaries and most murders really are committed by an intimate of the victim so, in spite of the police officer’s risible swami shtick, he is just playing the odds when he assumes that the person at the scene is the only suspect.

The point that I want to make here is that official burglary statistics compiled by the police ignore attacks that leave no mark; Officer Friendly only files a burglary report if your door frame is split in half or your window is in shards all over the carpet. If your wife’s jewelry box is gone, but there is no evidence of forced entry, then the incident is not recorded as a burglary. The insurance company is not going to reimburse you for those jewels.

So what is the most common type of burglary?

Put yourself in the shoes of the prospective burglar. Like everybody else in society, burglars have smart phones, so try searching for the keywords “lock picks” and “bump keys.” Bump keys are a tool for picking locks that, like conventional picks, leave no marks; but they do make a noise not unlike hammering a nail. There are dozens of paid Google Adwords campaigns using these keywords and hundreds of natural listings – page after page of them on Google. These Google Adwords campaigns are probably costing about $5.00 per hit, which means that these peddlers of burglary tools are selling a lot of lock picks and bump keys! (If you want to throw hedgehogs at the feet of burglars, then click on all the paid ads for burglary tools and ding them $5 per hit.) Indeed, there is a whole community of burglars who know how to pick and bump open locks. Also, you can search for the trademark Smart Key, and learn about a technique for twisting it open with hand tools and without any noise.

But what about physical attacks on locks, like with a sledge hammer, or the simple expedient of throwing a rock through the window? Burglars do not want to make loud noises, especially at night when the neighborhood is as quiet as a grave, but it is also important what kind of noise they are making. Construction workers, especially carpenters, often have to hammer on things and can verify that nobody freaks out because they hear a hammering noise. People might be more concerned at night, but in the middle of the day you can hammer until you are blue in the face and nobody will investigate. Shatter a window, on the other hand, and you have got everybody within earshot dialing 911 as fast as their little fingers can fly. Day or night, there is just no legitimate reason for a window to shatter (glaziers remove them quietly) and it makes a very loud and distinctive noise that is easy to identify.

So, while I am sure that all those self-proclaimed experts with their “fact-based” arguments will denigrate this claim, I believe that logic alone – without any statistics – confirms that most burglars are armed with lock picks, which are silent; or with bump keys, which make a mild hammering noise similar to that of driving a nail, or are specifically targeting Smart Key locks. Running a distant third is kicking the door open, which is disliked by burglars because, while not as alarming a noise as shattering glass, it is still significantly noisier than bumping the lock. Also, it is hard on their feet.

I can make your existing locks both pick-resistant and bump-resistant. Most other locksmiths would try to sell you expensive high-security locks for this purpose rather than modifying your existing locks. Of course, “resistant” is not the same thing as “impossible,” so if you really want to slam the door on this type of attack, I too can sell you high security locks that are fully pick-proof and bump-proof. High security locks (e.g. Medeco or ASSA) are not just a better grade of lock, but employ a different type of mechanism that entirely precludes this type of attack.

Currently, there is a huge gulf between high-security and standard-security locks, probably because the extant ANSI grading system is focused almost entirely on physical attacks like sledge hammers and crow bars – Grades 1 and 2 are supplied with the same cylinders – so one of my principle contributions will be to propose a new four-tiered grading system focused more on the cylinder or core and less on the bolt and the body of the lock. Medeco and ASSA will be Grade 1, Schlage and Defiant will be Grade 4, and locks of new designs, though within the reach of existing manufacturers, will be Grades 2 and 3.

I have heard business owners dismiss the whole of the locksmith’s trade with the flippant comment, “Oh, they’ll just break the window.” But I tell you that storefront glass is not easy to break. I have seen cases where such glass was struck dozens of time with what was either a large rock or a sledge hammer and, while badly cracked, valiantly clung to its window frame and did not admit entrance. On one occasion, I recall an instance where the glass-and-aluminum door suffered such damage that the bolt eventually pulled through the strike plate allowing entrance, yet the glass did not give way. I have also seen cases where the glass did break and admitted entrance. In one instance the rock was thrown so hard that it sailed through the dining area of a restaurant and punched through a plaster wall, finally coming to rest in the manager’s office. Not since Jethro (Beverly Hillbillies) went bowling has a ball been thrown with such force! (What that burglar thought he was going to steal from a restaurant, I am not sure; maybe he just wanted to make himself a sandwich.)

There are tools available to glaziers that allow them to remove and replace windows without the noise and violence employed by burglars. A Google search of “lock picks” and “bump keys” turns up many companies who unabashedly hawk burglary tools, but they are conspicuously silent on tools taken from the glazier’s trade. There just does not seem to be much interest among burglars regarding windows. The broken windows that I have seen – because there was damage to both the glass and the lock and I was called on to repair the latter – showed evidence of such fury that I suspect the perpetrator was a bit deranged.

So my advice to the owners of stores in strip malls is to have faith in their glass, but to get rid of the concrete ashtray and to not landscape with boulders. Also, mortise cylinders can be wrenched out. I have seen cases where a burglar went through a strip mall leaving every mortise cylinder wrenched out and dropped on the sidewalk. To thwart this type of attack, I can sell you a hardened ring (a “spinner” as they are sometimes called) that cannot be crushed in the vise jaws of a wrench and just spins, leaving the mortise cylinders untouched. On rare occasions, burglars have brought reciprocating saws and cut through the bolt; I can sell you a latch protector that can thwart this type of attack.

Bottom line: I believe that making your locks pick-resistant and bump-resistant is your highest priority. Just Google “lock picks” and “bump keys” and you will see the truth in what I am saying. Guarding against kick-in attacks is your second priority and attacks with power tools like drills and reciprocating saws your third priority. Shattering glass is a bold crime committed by the deranged and the best response is not to replace every window with expensive tempered glass, but to buy a firearm.

I know that people with names like Deviant who produce YouTube videos demonstrating the use of lock picks and bump keys are reading this blog, so let me remind them of something: In the same way that pretty girls must decide if they want to appear nude, smart boys must decide if they want to teach burglary. The slavering internet masses clamor for both types of YouTube videos, but the parents of these children do not approve. My suggestion is: If being famous on the internet is really that important to you, then eat a bug. You can do that with your clothes on and without causing anybody financial ruin when he gets his house or business burglarized.

Sneak Peek! In this column, I have identified pick resistance and bump resistance as the consumer’s highest priority when purchasing locks. In the next column I will review inexpensive house locks that make no claim to being pick resistant or bump resistant. Then I will review upscale house locks and electronic deadbolts that do claim to be pick resistant and bump resistant and I will find them wanting. In the following column I will discuss how to modify inexpensive locks to make them more secure. Later I will explain how real security can be achieved, and without the expense of high-security locks.

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