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Myriad options for securing your home

February 20, 2005 - With the variety of products available, it can be a challenge for a security-conscious apartment resident to find the most effective and affordable safety tools.

Never fear, Ernest "Ernie" Irving (no, not the former NASCAR driver) is here to help.

An area manager at Elliott's Hardware in Dallas, Mr. Irving provides these ideas on upgrading residential security, one of the departments he supervises:

Keyed and/or keyless deadbolts, $10 to $40. A universal recommendation among security pros, these range from single to double-cylinder (requiring a key to get in or out). Adding a heavy-duty strike plate secured to the house frame, rather than just the doorframe, costs a bit more. Separate, quality doorknob and lock sets range from $30 to $50.

Door braces or "jams," $13 to $20. These adjustable metal rods are popular, especially for apartments, he says, wedging at an angle between the floor, where they sit on rubber footpads, to under the doorknob, protecting against forced entry.

And effective? "I haven't had any complaints yet," Mr. Irving says. "Because it stops 'em. They can't get in."

Sliding door and window jams, $13 to $24. Fitting either in the slide track or between the frame and door (or window), these provide protection against forced entry similar to the regular door braces.

Magnetic door and window alarms, $12. With one part attached to the door or window, the other to their frames, these screech when armed and the magnetic seal is broken.

Exterior signs and window decals, $4. With messages such as "Protected by Electronic Security" and "Beware of Dog" – whether or not they're true – signs may create just enough doubt to send burglars packing.

Ceiling motion detector. $25. These provide 360-degree coverage for rooms up to 300 square feet.

Surveillance and video cameras (interior and exterior), $130-$150. These capture activity outside your residence and transmit images to a television or computer screen inside. It's his most expensive suggestion, but Mr. Irving says, "When it comes to security, people don't really mind spending the money."

Personal alarms, $10. Portable protection – "Press a button and this thing will just start screaming," Mr. Irving says – they go where you go, including laundry room, parking lot and common areas.

Motion detector with lighting (exterior), $25. Help bad guys see the light.

Electronic "Barking Dog" alarm, $80. If you can't have the real thing, why not an electronic German shepherd? This device uses microwave technology to "see" through walls and warn off anyone within 20 feet. Available at

Mark Macesich

The Keys to Keeping Your Home Safer

By MARK MACESICH / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

Clare Dempsey finally reached her limit.

February 21, 2005 - Clare Dempsey recently moved from a Knox-Henderson townhouse to an apartment where she feels much safer. The security-conscious 27-year-old marketer for a local home-building company recently moved to a Lakewood apartment complex that provides more protection than she's had since moving to Dallas five years ago.

It's not a fortress, but after living in places with much less, it's close enough – for now. "When I moved to Dallas, safety and security issues were at the top of my mind," says Ms. Dempsey, who believes she has been lucky so far.

"You don't think anything can happen to you, because, so far, it hasn't," she says. "But our place in Knox-Henderson was in a row of townhomes with no security, no gated parking – just a deadbolt and good faith in our community." She soon judged these precautions to be inadequate.

Her anxiety seems well founded, based on the most recent FBI and Dallas Police Department crime statistics:

•Burglaries in Dallas have increased nearly 14 percent in the last five years.

•Burglaries were second only to thefts in total number of reported incidents last year, around 23,000. That total was the highest in at least a decade, with residential burglaries increasing at a faster rate than burglaries overall.

•Burglary was one of only two major crime categories – homicide is the other – which increased in 2004 over 2003.

That's where deterrence comes in – making your home a less attractive choice, says Lt. Jan Easterling of the Dallas Police. "Anything you can do to make it harder for the bad guys reduces your chances of being a victim."

Crime on her doorstep
While spared any residential burglaries, Ms. Dempsey, her roommate and neighbors saw – or heard – the results of multiple car break-ins just outside.

"The fact that it was literally beginning to happen on our doorstep on a regular basis was cause for great concern for the two of us, so we started looking for new places."

At that time, she recognized how vulnerable she was even inside her home.

"While working from home, where our front door opened onto the street, I would find myself watching out the window to make sure no one was hanging around our place before I would leave. I'm talking about in broad daylight," she says.

"I would worry that someone would notice that there was only one car parked in our lot and deduce that I was alone if they saw me locking up the house and walking out by myself," says Ms. Dempsey. "I hated the fact that anyone could keep track of my comings and goings so easily. ... The constant fear of break-ins finally got to be too much."

She and her roommate ended up in separate places when they moved in December, but both found safer places.

An eight-foot fence and security gates protect her new residence, on the second floor of a 14-unit complex on Gaston Avenue. There are two deadbolts – one keyed, one keyless – on each of two apartment doors, plus peepholes, exterior lighting, and "courtesy" patrols. Deadbolts, peepholes and exterior lighting all are among basic security items experts recommend. And apartments above the ground floor are often considered safer.

"I also think it's important for women who live alone to get to know their neighbors," she says, echoing the emphatic advice of the Dallas Police and home security professionals.

"One alert neighbor can make all the difference in the world. If criminals know your area is not an easy target, the chances of being victimized decrease."

For single women especially, Lt. Easterling counsels diligence: "Don't just assume you locked up; get in the habit of doing that."

Ms. Dempsey endorses that strategy, explaining, "Now that I live alone, I won't even go down to the laundry room without locking my doors. You have to use common sense – never have a false sense of security."

"But, for now," she adds, "I feel much safer in my new location."


Additional recommendations:

Sturdy front door (with a deadbolt, of course).

Properly functioning door and window locks. Bars are an option, but be sure you know how to get out.

Monitored alarm system. Increases a burglar's fear of being caught and can let you know if someone's been in your place before you go in. Use the alarm decals and yard signs to warn the bad guys off.

Blocking devices that aid basic locks to prevent sliding doors and windows from, well, sliding.

Motion detector lighting. Illuminates anything that moves in a protected area.

Stereo, television, a dog or other noise. "It confuses burglars if they can't tell what's going on inside your home ...and sometimes they'll just pass you by if you can raise a doubt in their minds."

Timer-controlled lights. Creates the illusion that someone is at home.


Security Questions?

For more information, assistance, or a free consultation, Call our office at
(912) 441-2059, or

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Security Strategies
PO Box 279
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(912) 441-2059


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