Home security tips, part I

By Ted Parker

SDPD Neighborhood Policing Resource Team

Burglary is mostly a crime of opportunity that capitalizes on the carelessness and neglect of the homeowner or renter. This article contains tips on how to control access to your home, apartment, or condo by physical protection, deterrent measures, and various security procedures.

Part II will deal with installing burglar alarms, providing visibility, maintaining your property, protecting your home and property when you’re away, making sure the police can find your home, and identifying your property. These tips can significantly enhance the security of your home and property.

Physical protection

  • Install single cylinder dead-bolt locks on all doors. Bolts should have a minimum throw of 1 inch. Strike plates should have screws that are at least 3 inches long. Doors should be solid hardwood or metal clad. Hinges should be located on the inside or have non-removable pins. Special locks are need on double and Dutch doors.
  • Install locking devices on all sliding glass doors and windows.
  • Install good locks all doors that lead outside through garages or storage areas.
  • Don’t rely on chain locks for security. They’re only good for privacy.
  • Re-key or change all locks when moving into a new home.
  • Install locks on gates, garages, sheds, etc.
  • Go to a locksmith or hardware store for advice on locks.
  • Reinforce the glass in windows on the lock sides of doors so a burglar cannot break them and reach in to open the door.
  • Consider installing security bars on side, rear, or other windows that a burglar might break to enter your home. Bars must comply with Fire Code requirements for inside release to permit an occupant to escape in the event of a fire.
  • Fence in the yard.
  • Install a good side-yard gate and keep it locked at all times. Side and back entries are the most common access points for burglars.
  • Plant bushes with thorns or prickly leaves near windows and along fences.
  • Trim trees so that limbs don’t provide access to roofs, second stories, etc.
  • Residents of Del Mar Heights in the City of San Diego should call the SDPD Northwestern Division Community Relations Officer (CRO) at (858) 523-7031 for a free home security survey.
  • Residents of the City of Del Mar should call the Encinitas Sheriff’s Station Crime Prevention Unit at (760) 966-3587 for a free home security survey.

Deterrent measures

  • Put Neighborhood Watch, alarm company, and Operation ID stickers on entry doors and windows.
  • Consider having a dog that can scare a stranger away by either barking or looking fierce. Keep an outside dog in a fenced area and have a good lock on the gate.
  • Use fencing, gates, landscaping, pavement treatment, signs, etc. to define clear boundaries between your property and adjoining properties.

Security procedures

  • Keep all doors and windows locked, even if you are just going out “for a minute.” If a window is left open a few inches for ventilation, pins or dowels should be inserted in the tracks to prevent someone from opening it more.
  • Lock gates, garages, and sheds after each use.
  • Store bicycles, mowers, ladders, etc. in a locked garage or shed, or secure them to some stationary point.
  • Don’t leave notes on your door when you are away from home.
  • Don’t leave keys in mailboxes or planters, under doormats, or in other obvious hiding spots. Leave an extra key with a neighbor.
  • Learn to recognize who belongs in your neighborhood, development, or apartment, i.e., residents, workers, guests, etc.
  • Know who’s at your door before opening it. Check photo registration card before dealing with any solicitors, peddlers, interviewers, etc. Persons soliciting in the City of San Diego are required to obtain a card from the SDPD and display it on the front of their clothing. They are allowed to solicit only between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. except by appointment.
  • Be suspicious of persons making unsolicited offers of services.
  • Post a NO SOLICITING sign if you don’t want any solicitor to ring your door bell, knock on your door, or make any other sound to attract your attention.
  • Ask for photo identification before letting in anyone you don’t know. Check out the identification with the company or agency if you are suspicious.
  • Never let a stranger enter your home to use the telephone. Offer to make the call yourself in an emergency.
  • Don’t give your name, phone number, or whereabouts on your answering machine message. Never say you aren’t home. Just ask the caller to leave a message.
  • Don’t leave your home keys on a chain with your vehicle keys when you use valet parking. Also, don’t leave your garage door opener where it is easily accessible. Keep your vehicle registration, proof of insurance, and any other papers with your home address on them where a criminal is not likely to find them.
  • Don’t give maids, babysitters, or others working in your home access to your home keys or alarm codes.
  • Learn to recognize who belongs in your neighborhood and report any suspicious persons or vehicles. Residents of Del Mar Heights in the City of San Diego should call the SDPD at its non-emergency number, (619) 531-2000 or (858) 484-3154. Residents of the City of Del Mar should call the San Diego County Sheriff at its non-emergency number, (858) 565-5200. If you see a burglary in progress call 911. Examples of suspicious activities are listed on the page entitled Reporting and Providing Information about Crimes and Suspicious Activities in the Crime Prevention and Education section of the SDPD website at
  • Call 9-1-1 if you are at home and think someone might be breaking in.
  • Don’t take direct action yourself. An officer will be dispatched to your address even if you cannot speak or hang up.
  • Don’t go in or call out if you return home and suspect someone has broken into your home, e.g., if a window or screen is broken, a door is ajar, or a strange vehicle is parked in the driveway. Go to a neighbor’s home and call the police.
  • Don’t discuss your assets or finances with strangers.
  • Don’t keep large sums of money at home.
  • Keep valuable papers, stocks, bonds, expensive jewelry, coin collections, etc. in a bank safe deposit box. Don’t store them at home unless you have a security closet or a safe that is well hidden and cannot be removed.