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Baffling the burglar.


The Good Book says, "Lay notup for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal."

Still, we all try to lay up as manytreasures as we can, right? The trick becomes: How do we keep crooks from breaking and entering and carrying off the stuff?

An 80-year-old woman in Queens,New York, has a solution. She places a pair of size-15 boots outside her door each evening. Hers was the only house on her block not "hit." The catch is, a size-15 thief could show up some night and snatch the boots.

The ultimate protection, of course,is an up-to-date, professionally installed security system. But before laying out $1,500 or so for this invitation to annoying false alarms, you might take the less costly route of adopting good security habits.

"More than 60 percent of burglarscome through unlocked doors and windows," says Richard Mellard of the University of Louisville's National Crime Prevention Institute.

Take the word of Ray Johnson, areformed thief: "The greatest deterrents to thieves are noise and light. Many of those guys would just as soon use a sledge hammer on your door but don't because of the noise."

When away in the evening, youshould leave would-be burglars false clues that you are home and obvious signs that your house has good security. Rig timers (less than $20 at hardware stores) to turn on a few lights or the TV or radio. Unplug phones or smother them with pillows so prolonged ringing won't tip off a passing burglar.

Place alarm devices in a visiblespot, provide outdoor lighting, put up a beware-of-dog sign whether you have a dog or not, and prominently display security-protection labels.

While away on vacation, stop themail and the newspaper delivery. Ask a neighbor to mow the lawn, to collect fliers tossed on the porch, and to keep an eye on things. You might even have someone park in your drive, move toys about the yard, use your garbage pails, and vary the inside lights and shades. If you don't know your neighbors that well, you will--once you agree to do the same thing for them.

The amount of treasure you havelaid up will determine, of course, how far you will want to go to protect it. Many burglaries are the spur-of-the moment work of neighborhood kids who may spot a purse lying on the kitchen table or a stereo not used, but others are perpetrated by big-time crooks who will carefully establish your absence and then attempt to out-wit your security system.

If you have no close neighbors, youshould contact the local police. Crime-prevention officers will help you find ways to deter those top-rated housebreakers. They will check for such burglary discouragements as sturdy doors, good locks, and window grillwork. They will ask a few questions: Have you hidden valuable items? Are the stereo, the TV, and the home computer bolted down? Have you listed their serial numbers? Have you photographed all valuables?

You may feel secure just becauseyour doors are securely bolted. But what about the doorframe? If it is at all loose, it's an open invitation to the burglar's jimmy. And check your door hinges. If they aren't inside, a ten-year-old with a screwdriver could take them off.

You may also feel safe dropping arod in the track of a sliding door, but anyone bent on burglary can easily pop it out with a coat hanger. Special locks are available to keep sliding doors from being lifted off their tracks.

If your outside door has a window,you should consider a double-cylinder lock that requires use of a key inside as well as out. Such a lock is a minor annoyance compared to finding your house robbed because a thief broke the glass, reached in, and opened the lock.

As for that "hot line" to the policestation: If the response is to be longer than ten minutes, forget it.

A word to the woman living alone. Yourbedroom door should be fitted with a dead-bolt lock that locks not with a key but with the slip of a lever, which could prevent a burglar who rips off your stereo from also ripping off your nightgown. A "screecher" beside the bed is an inexpensive way to attract attention if the noise downstairs is more than mice frolicking in the flour bin.

As for guns, too many go off half-cocked. Unlessyou are trained and an expert marksman, who knows what you might bag in all the excitement of confronting a stranger climbing through the window. The intruder might also get to the gun before you do, and thus you'd contribute to arming the very people you fear most.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Allen, Michael
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1986
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