Some years ago, in another part of the world, a builder and his client had this argument: The client said the locks in the house were no good. He wanted more, bigger, better locks. The builder said the standard locks were good enough. He told his client that a sincere bad guy isn’t really deterred by locks.
After a long and whiny front-yard argument, the builder proposed a wager. “I’ll bet you $500,” he said, “that I can get inside this house in less than three minutes, using no tools and never touching a door or window.” The client took the bet, still angling for a freebie lock upgrade.
The builder walked up to the house, pulled loose some vinyl siding with his bare hands, threw a chunk of wall insulation out into the front yard, and kicked down the half-inch drywall. He was in. To his credit, he collected only enough of the bet to pay for the minor drywall repairs.
So, you might ask, how can I be secure in my own home? Answer: You can’t. Nobody is ever safe. Take, for instance, the recent example of the unfortunate French snorkeler, who was minding his own simple business, swimming in a secluded lake. But just because fate is actively mischievous, a giant U.S.-made water bomber swooped down out of the sky and swallowed our frogman Jonah-and-the-whale style. I can imagine the guy swimming frantically up to the top of the tank, sputtering and choking all the way, until his snorkel found a little air pocket. I imagine him having a moment of great joy and relief, and that joy ending abruptly, along with all of his life processes, when the bomber opened up and disgorged him into the flaming treetops of a nearby forest fire.
There are a few things you can do to protect your house. Despite the fact that an intrepid burglar can walk right through the walls of a vinyl-clad house, most bad guys go in the usual way, through a door. So a good dead-bolt lockwith a long bolt, set into a deep pocket in a strong jamb, and the whole works secured with lots of big long screwswill cause a burglar to have to kick the door several times, not just once.
You don’t want to put burglar bars on your windows. They might keep burglars out, but they’ll also keep you in. Bad news if the house catches on fire. Same thing with burglar doors. And I’m here to tell you, because I have lived in New York City and I know: It’s a short downhill trip from burglar bars to tall fences topped with coils of razor wire. Once things get that bad, you might as well just jam some stuff into a duffel bag and haul ass out of town.
Security systems with alarms do some useful good. I could train my second-grade daughter to disable even a fancy one, but she’s unusually adept. Your average bad guy won’t even bother, he’ll just go ahead and break in, steal things, and leave before the cops can respond to the call.
A friend of mine has had a fancy alarm system, complete with 24-hour telephone response, for the last several years. When she moved a few weeks ago, she canceled the service at her old house and had the same company set up a system at her new place. About a week after that, there was a false smoke alarm at her old place. (She knew because she moved just down the block, and she could hear the honking.) Her security company (well-known and widely advertised) called her a day later and told her that her smoke alarm was going off. So all the time she thought she was safe in her new place, the security company was monitoring her old house, and they were 24 hours late reporting what could have been a fire.
She canceled her contract, bought a fake security camera, and super-glued it over her front door. A smart and rational decision, I think.
Finally, here’s another thing you don’t do: Do not go out and get a bad-ass dog. The bad-ass dog that you think will chase away criminals will probably never see a criminal, and it’ll spend it’s barking, howling miserable life trying to bite hunks out of little children. Get geese instead. They honk for strangers, but they have no meaningful teeth.
Walter Jowers can be reached at Walter.Jowers@nashville.com.