VIDEO: Home SecurityEvery 15 minutes, a burglar breaks in to a home or office somewhere in the city of Los Angeles, according to L.A. Police Department figures. The number of break-ins has not changed dramatically in the last decade, and it’s actually fallen a bit over the past two years. But four burglaries an hour is an alarming rate for any homeowner or renter. Spurred by that statistic, I decided to have an expert take a good look at my own house’s fortifications. I invited Pete Moraga of Allstate Insurance Co. to inspect my place. I passed the security test in some areas but failed miserably in others. My first security breach was in the living room. As Moraga pointed out, my laptop, a stereo, CDs and my husband’s Nikon camera were all sitting on a table within snatching distance of the front windows of our house. “A drug addict could just break a window, lean over and take it,” he said. He’s right, but since cafe curtains almost completely cover the windows, I still think it would be almost impossible for a thief to see any of those things from the outside. After Moraga left, I went to see for myself. Sure enough, there was nothing visible from the window, except our old, 70-pound Philips TV set. These days, thieves are more likely to forget the TV and instead stuff the laptop, iPod and Tivo into a pillowcase and head for the nearest pawn shop. Still, keeping tempting stuff near windows is an invitation for shattered glass. Deadbolt the doors While I failed the living room test, I regained some points with the front door. It’s secured with a deadbolt, an obvious necessity in an urban setting like Los Angeles. The charming glass panes in the door have pluses and minuses: The glass could be broken and a hand inserted to unlock the deadbolt, but the panes also allow the resident to identify who is at the door. Overall, our front door hit about a five on a scale of one to 10. Windows are the other main entry point. I have spent a lot of time driving myself crazy imagining a robber or burglar prying a window open, jumping inside my home, flinging documents everywhere and rifling through drawers (not that there’s anything to find). The report on my windows is mixed. On the upside, the windows are vintage 1950s and are reinforced with wood Xs across the front. That means an intruder willing to break the glass would also need to break the wooden crosses to remove anything large. Of course, he could still get the CDs. But Moraga says the glass panes in older windows like ours will sometimes just pop out when tapped because the caulking has already dried up and fallen away. I was thinking metal bars would be a relatively simple solution when McGoey suggested drilling holes through the window frames and then sticking heavy pins or nails through the holes. It’s a simple, cheap, but effective way to secure older windows. Also, horizontal windows are easily fortified by putting metal or wooden rods in the tracks. The bedroom windows face the same challenge: wooden crosses and old glass. I like the idea of the pins, and upon inspection, it looks like previous residents have done the same thing in the past, only to cover it over with paint. I vow to buy some industrial strength nails and start leaving them in all my windows from now on. In addition to locking the windows, there’s an issue surrounding visibility. The bedroom windows are covered by vertical blinds – which I hate. My husband would like to keep the blinds completely closed at all times, whereas I prefer to let some light in. However, our desktop computer, a dinosaur, like the TV, sits just inside the window. And while it’s hard to believe the computer is worth anything, why provide temptation? I suppose I’ll just have to live with the vertical blinds. Consistency = safety The experts say consistency is key, whether it’s keeping the windows locked, setting that house alarm or always locking up even if you only plan to be gone for 15 minutes or so. Remember, they say, the average burglary lasts just four minutes. Moving into the kitchen, we face what is probably the biggest chink in our home security armor. A door leading from the kitchen to a laundry room is made of very thin wood. The laundry room is shared with our neighbors in the backhouse, and we leave that outside door unlocked so we can both access it. McGoey’s comment is going through my head: “A high percentage of burglaries occur simply by kicking the door open.” Indeed, Moraga takes one look at the door to the laundry room and says the only way to secure it is to replace it. “It can be easily kicked in or jimmied open with a crowbar.” I guess we get a big 0 out of 10 on that one. While we fail the back door security test, Moraga likes the foliage levels outside our house. I always thought that lots of tall shrubbery or hedges in front of a home would make it seem impenetrable and therefore turn thieves off. But Moraga says that actually, the opposite is true. “Brush in front of the house is not good,” he said. “They use that as cover.” He points to a secure-looking home across the street surrounded by hedges and hanging branches, and says it makes a nice target for a burglar because it has so many hiding places. Unfortunately, our perfect 10 on the exterior is not enough to make up for our exposures. So it looks like we’ll have our work cut out for us with our house getting only about a 6 out of 10 on the home security test. One main reason for our score is that we lack several of the best deterrents against burglaries – a noisy alarm system and a vicious dog, although Chris McGoey explained how those things can be simulated without dipping deep into our pocketbooks. “The benefit to an alarm system is mainly the sign on the front lawn and decals on the windows,” he said. “Most of the signs are legitimate but 75 percent of people who have alarms don’t set them daily and they are not connected to a patrolled service anymore.” Beware of dog bowl As for the dog, you can always put up the sign and skip the Rottweiler. “A lot of people put signs up and put a huge oversize (dog) bowl out.” [email protected] (818)713-3662 Home Security Checklist Are doors metal or solid wood? Are door frames strong enough and tight enough to prevent forcing or spreading? Are door hinges protected from removal from outside? Are there windows in the door or within 40 inches of the locks? Does door from garage to living quarters have locks adequate for exterior entrance? Do all windows have adequate locks in operating condition? If your home alarm is tied to a monitoring system through your telephone line, is it backed up by a cell phone in case burglars cut your phone line? Have you installed screws into overhead tracks of sliding glass doors to prevent lifting the doors off the tracks? Sources: National Sheriffs’ Association; Allstate Insurance, Farmers Insurance. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! His verdict? Not so good. But I learned there are a lot of inexpensive things you can do to secure your castle. Think like a thief Before Moraga’s arrival, I got some quick advice from Chris McGoey, a security consultant in Riverside. The best way to make your house secure is to think like a thief as you examine each access point to your home. “With any type of residence, you look at it like a box with six sides,” McGoey said. “The openings are the doors and windows, and the criminals come through one of those openings. Depending on the home, there are things you can do, but the main thing is to plug up those holes.” Keeping McGoey’s suggestions in mind, I surveyed my place and felt confident about having Allstate’s Moraga make an assessment.