Above and Beyond Tips for Home Protection. How Good is Your Deadbolt?

April 21, 2017 in break ins, burglary, crime, Crime Tips, deadbolt, safety tips, security

The following post is from: Safety & Security

There are many factors that can make your home a better target for burglary than other homes. For example, your house is at greater risk if:

  • It sits on a corner lot (more visible to a browsing burglar and a natural place to stop and ask for directions)
  • It is located close to a major highway exit (less than 1 mile)
  • It is located on a through street, which gives a burglar a quicker escape (dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs are safer)
  • It borders a wooded area or playground (provides concealed access for burglars)
  • It is in a wealthier neighborhood
  • It features no signs of young children living there (burglars avoid as someone may be home)
  • It was recently purchased (burglars know you haven’t yet developed close familiarity with neighbors)

 

What can you do to prevent yourself from being a target or stop a criminal if they try to get in? You probably know some of the more common tips, such as:

  • Install a burglar alarm and/or put up an alarm system sign.
  • Don’t let mail and newspapers build up.
  • Set lights on timers to give the appearance someone is home.
  • Have motion activated exterior lights.
  • Adopt a dog that will make noise if they hear someone attempting to get in.

 

But there are actually easy ways to make your house considerably more secure. One especially important way to prevent break ins is actually pretty simple. Have a good deadlock. 65% of break ins occur by forcing a door open. 12% occur because the criminal finds your “hidden” key.

“I have a deadlock, so I’m safe.” Not necessarily. St. Louis is filled with older homes, and many deadlocks are outdated. Do you know the grade of your deadlock? You should always go for Grade 1 deadbolts, they are the most effective. Shorter deadbolts makes it easier to break your door. For example, look at this older deadbolt compared to a newer Grade 1 model:

deadbolt

“I have a new deadbolt, so I’m safe.” Once again, not necessarily. A deadbolt is only as effective as the nails you use. How long are the nails that connect your deadbolt to your door frame? Many come with short 1/2 – 1 inch nails. With nails that short, it is easy to break the frame of your door. You should replace all of your nails with ones at least 3 inches long. These longer nails will go into the studs of your house and make it extremely hard to break down your door. Look at this example:

nail

Simple things like having better deadbolts and nails, locking up when you leave, not leaving an accessible “hidden” key, and working together with your neighbors to keep an eye on your block are effective ways of protecting your home. Remember, not all locks are built the same. Don’t let this be you:

door

Abby Orscheln – Safety and Security Intern

Thank you to “The Family Handyman” for providing information and photos on deadbolt improvement.  Visit their website to learn how to install new deadbolts/nails yourself.

Information on houses being targets was taken from a research study, “Knowing Your Odds: Home Burglary and the Odds Ratio,” by S. Hakim, G. Renger and Y. Shachamurove, City College of New York and University of Pennsylvania, Sept. 2000


Stolen License Plate/Sticker Prevention

January 27, 2017 in Abigail Orscheln, Current News, license plate

The following post is from: Safety & Security

There has been a small spike in license plate and registration sticker thefts in St. Louis this month. Your license plate can be easily taken off of your car no matter where you are parked, home or not. Most thieves only need a screwdriver to take it and there can be major ramifications for you if your plates are used by someone else. For example, if your plates are identified with a crime, you could be a suspect if you haven’t reported them missing.

What do you do if your license plate is stolen?

  1. Immediately report it to the police – call the non-emergency number.
  2. Obtain an incident report number – It is illegal to drive without plates, but if you have your report number or an official copy of the report you can give it to an officer if they pull you over.
  3. Report the stolen plate to the Licensing Office at City Hall – bring your incident report number. There will be a small replacement fee.
  4. Get a temporary tag  or a new license plate.
  5. Secure your new plates with the methods outlined below.

How can you prevent license plate theft?

  1. Get theft prevention screws – Most thieves will carry around a screwdriver to get off plates. If you use special screws that require a particular tool to remove them, it is likely the thief will move on. There are multiple brands, such as Torx Security Screws or Plate Keeper.
  2. Get a plate security frame or cover – These  go around the edge of your plate or cover it entirely and keep people from taking them off. There are multiple brands, such as Lock-Um.

How can you prevent registration sticker theft?

  1. You can obtain enhanced security tabs/stickers that have perforated edges to make them difficult to remove by thieves. They also have your license plate number on them to dissuade thieves. They are free at time of renewal, or you can obtain them later for an $8.50 replacement fee and $3.50 processing fee.
    1. http://dor.mo.gov/motorv/enhancedtabs/
  2. You can slice your old sticker with something sharp, like a razor (be very careful!). This makes them difficult to remove.

St. Louis’ Stolen License Plates Page

Keep safe,

Abigail Orscheln — Safety and Security Intern


Crime Tips – December 2016

December 29, 2016 in Crime Tips, personal safety, phone apps

The following post is from: Safety & Security

You may hear the same tips over and over on how to prevent crime or victimization, such as locking your doors and hiding valuables. But here are some tips that you may not have heard before or are not as obvious, but are just as important.

  • Keep your keys in hand – Criminals wait for you to be off your guard, keeping your car or house keys in hand for easy access is a great way to avoid being distracted or slowed down.
  • Don’t follow the same patterns – Leaving and returning home at the same time every day, going to the same coffee shop, grocery store, or bar, taking the same routes to your favorite spot, or even a jog route can help criminals plot where you are going to be. Try varying your routes and visiting new places occasionally. Being unpredictable can be a great asset.
  • Say no to strangers – We all want to be helpful and friendly, but it probably isn’t a good idea to lend out your phone, give people money, or get caught up in a conversation. Your priority should be your safety. Catching nice strangers off guard makes it easier to take off with their things.
  • Learn defensive moves – If someone is threatening you to give up your belongings, you should give them up and get out of there. Personal items can be replaced. But if they continue the attack or are attacking you for reasons other than theft, learning some basic self-defense moves can make a big difference. Read some self-defense tips here.
  • Carry a whistle or other loud device – Criminals don’t want you to bring attention to the situation. Scream, blow a whistle, or set off an alarm. Anything to make them hesitate so you can get away.
  • Look for a personal safety phone app – There are multiple choices these days for apps that can schedule fake phone calls from friends in case you need an out from a situation, send your current location and an alert to a friend if you feel unsafe, or even call the police. These apps can be subtle and unnoticeable to the people you are around. Here is a list of some iPhone and Android apps. 

If you are a victim of a crime, don’t be afraid to reach out. Report the crime to the police and look into crime victim help groups.

 

Abby Orscheln – Safety and Security Intern


Winter Safety Tips

December 2, 2016 in Crime Tips, Current News, ice, safety, snow, winter

The following post is from: Safety & Security

Winter is a beautiful season, but cold and snowy/icy conditions can present a lot of safety concerns. Keep these tips in mind to stay safe and warm this winter.

Vehicle Safety. Be prepared. Keep a flashlight, ice scraper, warning devices (e.g. flares, reflectors), jumper cables, first aid kit, snow shovel and rock salt or sand, bottled water and snacks, and extra blankets in your vehicle. Always have a cell phone with you (but don’t keep it in the car). Don’t leave your car running to warm it up in the morning or to keep it warm while pumping gas or running into the store, this is an easy way to get your vehicle stolen.

Driving Safety. If your car is parked outside, make sure the exhaust pipe and the area around it is clear of snow before you start the car. In icy and snowy conditions, drive slowly, allow plenty of stopping time, and pay attention to the road and other drivers. If you get stuck in the snow, light two flares and place one at each end of the car, a safe distance away. Make sure snow isn’t blocking the exhaust pipe, and stay in the vehicle with a window open slightly to allow fresh air.

Home Safety. Be prepared. Have a week’s worth of food, drinking water, medicine and prescription drugs, pet food, and safety supplies on hand. Do not leave lit candles unattended. Keep your sidewalks and driveway clear of snow each day. If you are unable to remove it, contact a willing neighbor or a snow removal business to do it for you. For those going away this season, snow left on the driveway and sidewalk for a period of time can be a dead giveaway that you aren’t home, so arrange for it to be cleared every day.

 

Have a safe and happy winter season.

Abby Orscheln – Safety & Security Intern


Avoid Scams

November 25, 2016 in Current News

The following post is from: Safety & Security

Sometimes scammers will call (or email) you to try to get you to pay them money. They may try to disguise themselves as a utility company or even a family member in need. You should always verify who you are talking to and if something seems suspicious, hang up.

Currently, in Missouri, there is an issue with people calling Ameren customers, pretending to be Ameren employees, and demanding they pay their bill immediately or will have their utilities turned off. Ameren has publicly said they would never do that, and will work with people who owe money. Immediately hang up if you get this suspicious call and report it to Ameren at 800-552-7583.

Top 8 most common phone scams:

  1. Free Vacations and Prizes – If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. If someone calls you saying you’ve won something, ask for their name, their company name, and their supervisor’s name. Question them; they should know your name if they called you. Don’t pay any fees or buy any product from them to “claim your prize”, it isn’t real.
  2. Phishing Scams – They may try to convince you there is something wrong with your computer and will tell you that your privacy is at risk. They are just trying to get your information. Don’t tell them anything. Ask what company they work for, hang up, then call the company directly.
  3. Loan Scams – Whether it is for an auto loan, student loan, or payday loan, it is probably a scam. Don’t give out your information. If you need a loan, go directly to a bank and talk to them in person.
  4. Phony Debt Collectors – If you get a call from a debt collector, ask for their name, number, company information, and hang up. Refuse to discuss anything until you have a written “validation notice”. Immediately call your creditor to see if the collector was legitimate, if they weren’t you should report the call to the Federal Trade Commission.
  5. Fake Charities – One of the most common fake fundraisers is to pretend to collect money for local police and fire departments. Ask for their information and the charity’s information, then hang up. Call the real charity directly if you want to make a donation.
  6. Medical Alert/Scams Targeting Seniors – Senior citizens are one of the most highly targeted groups. Some scammers may call them with free prizes, like a medial alert system. Really, they are trying to gather personal information. Another common scam is to pretend to be a family member in trouble and ask for them to wire money to them. You should never wire money to someone until you know 100% that it is them and they are really in trouble.
  7. Warrant Threats – Scammers may call and threaten you will an arrest unless you pay a fine. The government will never call and threaten you to pay money to avoid arrest. Hang up.
  8. IRS Calls –  This is one of the most widespread scams. They may pose as IRS agents and demand that you owe them money. The IRS will never request immediate payment over the phone. Hang up.

 

Abby Orscheln – Safety & Security Intern