How to Harden Your Home Against Crime

We can’t control a criminal’s desire or ability to commit crime, but we can deny a criminal the opportunity to victimize us, so here is where we must focus our energy and resources.


According to the FBI, 2009 crime statistics:

  • There were 69,191 home robberies.
  • 6,025 homes per DAY in the U.S. are burglarized.
  • Burglaries account for 23.6% of all the estimated number of property crimes.
  • 61% (1,341,466.25) of all burglaries involved forcible entry.
  • 20% (445,136) at night
  • 37.2% (818,167) during the day

Three things need to come together for a crime to be committed:

  • The Desire
  • The Ability
  • The Opportunity

We can’t control a criminal’s desire or ability to commit crime, but we can deny a criminal the opportunity to victimize us, so here is where we must focus our energy and resources.

We can deny a criminal the opportunity to victimize us in your home, when we develop a defensive strategy utilizing the concentric rings of security concept. This concept uses three complete rings of physical security around your home. The outer most ring is the third ring. The second ring is inside the third ring, and first ring is inside the second ring. Each ring is progressively more difficult to penetrate, and ring one is the most protected, because it serves as the last final defense. Ring three represents the yard or other area immediately surrounding your house. Ring two represents the physical structure of your house with a focus on doors, window and other entry points. Ring one represents a safe room created inside the physical structure of your house.


Avoid setting predictable patterns. Criminals or those with criminal mentality may live in your neighborhood. They may even live next door. Alcohol and/or drug addictions can quickly escalate and turn a good neighbor Sam into a conniving thief who is ready and willing to victimize you and your family. One of your neighbors could have a boyfriend or relative with criminal intent or addictions. Because of their close proximity, these individuals can develop a working knowledge of your activities and patterns: what cars you drive; when you and your family leave and return from work; when the kids leave for school; when your kids are home alone, and when no one is home. These patterns can be minimized by varying your time schedule as much as possible. I little pre-planning and effort can go a long way in protecting you and your family from victimization and physical harm.

Keep financial information secret. Remember the old WW II saying, “Loose lips sink ships”. It was true then, and it’s true today. Criminals will target your house, if they know you have something of value, they will be motivated to take it, and the higher the value the more determined their resolve.

Instruct all family members, relatives, friends and visitors to keep your financial secrets: cash, gold and/or silvers stores; food, water, survival supplies, firearms and ammunition stockpiles; valuable
antiques, silverware or jewelry as well as a cadre of electronics.

Do a public information background check of family contacts:
new neighbors, daughter’s new boyfriend, son’s new girlfriend, mom’s

new boyfriend, dad’s new girlfriend, repairmen/women, and people from the office that come to the house, potential business partners/contacts, etc. Any one of these contacts can be in a position to obtain your family’s personal financial information and/or personal identity information as well. You may even want to do a background check on yourself, so you are aware of what information is available on you
and/or your family.

  • Public information sources document criminal convictions, sex offender status, civil actions (both for and against), property foreclosures, bankruptcies.
  • A “Google” search on an individual’s email address, name, phone number and personal address can reveal membership in dating websites which may document deviate behavior or conversations.
  • A “Facebook” search can reveal organizational associations, political views, religious beliefs, prejudices, personal behaviors and activities.

Install exterior lighting. Spot lights are the best. They should illuminate the front, back and both sides of your house. There should be no dark or shadowy areas, where a criminal could hide. Motions sensor activated lights are more desirable, since they only turn on, when the sensors detect activity, so they are less disturbing to neighbors and require less electricity.

Add fences and lock gates. After all, if a criminal is too lazy to get a regular job, any additional barrier could cause just enough effort to deter him or her. Obviously, the taller the fence the better; however, wooden fences can provide a criminal with a hiding place from which to launch their attack from both sides of the fence. Wooden fences also prevent neighbors, passersby or even police patrol units from looking into areas surrounding your home.

Remove hiding spots. Cut out or shorten bushes, trees and shrubs near your house. Tall bushes and shrubs, in close proximity to your house, provide an easy hiding place for criminals, from which they have quick and easy access to you and your family, while leaving or entering your home. This not only gives a criminal the opportunity to harm you, but it can also provide them with access into your home, where they have additional opportunities to harm the rest of your family.

Keep a note pad handy. Use it to log suspicious vehicles, license plates and persons who traffic through your neighborhood. Criminals have been known to walk or drive through a neighborhood several days before committing a burglary or violent crime, so they can locate and identify vulnerable homes and persons. They may even knock on your door (or that of your neighbor) and act as if they accidently knocked on the wrong door while looking for someone, or they may just ask for directions. The note pad can be used to write down the physical and clothing description of the individual as well as any vehicle or accomplice descriptions before informing the police. When you write down a clothing description, you should start from the head down to the feet: hat, shirt, pants and shoes.

When you write down a physical description, remember the obvious: sex, race, build, age and height and so on. If this is too difficult, you can try using yourself as a measuring tool for comparison: was he taller or shorter than I am? If I’m 5’ 10” and he was a few inches shorter, than he was be able 5’ 7”- 8”. This same technique could be used to describe body built and age. You should also look for specific
identifiers: scares, moles, missing fingers, ear rings, beard/mustache, number and locations of piercing as well as the last known direction of travel and any possible accomplices.

When you write down a vehicle description, you should also start from top of the roof down to the tires. Once again remember the
obvious: car, truck, van, SUV, small, midsize, full size, two door or four door, color, year, make, model and license number. If this is too difficult,
you can try using your own vehicle as a measuring tool for comparison: was it bigger or shorter than your vehicle? Was it older or newer than
yours? Does it look like a friend’s car? If so contact the friend and get the information about his car? This same technique could be used to develop an accurate description of any almost any item. Also, look for specific identifiers: rust, dents or other damage, bumper stickers, cracked windows, “Mag” tires and loud mufflers as well as last knownd irection of travel.

Join a neighborhood watch program. You and your neighbos can begin looking out for each other. Two eyes are better than one, and two dozen eyes are better than two, and when there all looking for criminals and criminal activity, they have a much greater chance of finding them. A successful neighborhood watch program must maintain frequent communications between its members. Nowadays, this can be done through emails. This method will not only make for easy daily communications, the previous days communications would automatically serve to create an informational data base going back possible for months. This data base could be searched after a crime was discovered in an effort to identify possible investigative leads.


Lock all your external doors. That’s right; no criminal countermeasures can protect you or your family, if you don’t use them. Lock your doors, whenever you’re inside your home not just before you go to bed and before you leave. Remember, home invasions (attacks into the home, while the home is occupied) can occur anytime.

Install physical security barriers. Start with security doors and frames at all exterior entry/exit points; however, never install any physical security barriers or devices on your residence which will inhibit or prevent you or your family from a quick escape in an emergency, and make sure they all comply with local fire codes.

A decorative door window may give a house personality, but also gives a criminal easy access; break the window (or just remove it from the frame-if they have time) reach inside, unlock the fire code approved one way deadbolt and/or the door knob lock, then walk right in. That’s how simple it is.

Metal doors and frames with internal hinges are the best, but they’re also the more expensive. They are incredibly durable and almost impossible to break in with just physical force. Once a criminal sees this formidable barrier, they know, you’ve forced them to make their initial

entry through a window. Break out the window, push up the window, and climb over broken glass. Criminals are lazy by nature, so forcing them to exert this additional effort may cause them to avoid your house for a less formidable target. What’s the best way to survive being a victim, don’t be one.

Wooden doors aren’t as formidable as their metal counterpart, but they are much more affordable. If you’ve opted for the wooden door and frame, you will need to re-enforce the frame and the door knob as well as install additional deadbolt locks.

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link; any physical force against a door is transferred onto the weakest parts of the door frame. The frame is weakest where it attaches to the door. Doors are attached by hinges on one side, and the opposite side of the door is secured only by contact points created by the deadbolt throw bolt and the door knob latch.

Any exterior door should be secured to the frame with at least three internal hinges, and each hinge should be secured to the frame with at least eight screws (four on each side of the hinge plates). These multi hinge and multi screw attachments disperse any inward force against the door out over a large area up and down the frame which makes it the strongest attachment point.

The contact points created by the deadbolt throw bolt and door knob latch (live bolt) only secure a door to the frame by their contact surface. The average throw bolt and latch are just one inch wide. If you have one deadbolt and one door knob latch, you only have two inches
of wood contact surface securing your door to the frame. That’s right; no hinges or multiple screw attachments, just one inch of wood behind the throw bolt and one inch of wood behind the door latch. Therefore, all inward force directed against the door will be localized and magnified onto these two contact points which makes it very easy to drive the
throw bolt and latch through the door jamb allowing quick access into a residence. This makes it the weakest link in the chain.

Re-enforce the contact points as well as the deadbolt and door knob latch with metal. There are many cost effective commercially

available options. Be sure to choose an option which disperses the localized /magnified force over larger areas of the door jamb. We also suggest installing a one way deadbolt on the top half of the door and one on the bottom half of the door as an additional aid in dispersing the force through the door jamb. All hinges, deadbolt throw bolts and door knob latch attachments on the jamb must be secured with three and one half inch screws. This will ensure the screws go through the jamb and anchor themselves into the studs of the doorframe.

Since a chain is still only as strong as its weakest link, three inch screws should be evenly spaced out through the sides and top of the jamb as well. These efforts will greatly strengthen the jamb itself.

Aftermarket door barriers are additional alternatives. They can be used as a primary security option or to compliment any of the previous options.

Use free standing barriers. “OnGard” door lock/brace is an affordable way to stop America’s most underreported crime: Home Invasions. Five years in the making, the “OnGard” door lock/brace is a unique two piece design “utilizing both the strength of the floor and a space age polymer, the identical material in U.S. fighter planes. Its remarkable strength easily resists blows from kick-ins, shoulder slams and even sledgehammers” according to the manufacturer.

Without this remarkable device, a standard door jamb will likely splinter and separate from even the strongest rated deadbolts. An average size male using a five pound sledgehammer can easily destroy a none re-enforced door frame and/or deadbolt with just a few blows, leaving the family vulnerable to a burglar or attacker.

Use improvised door barriers. They can be used as a last option. Something as simple as a rubber doorstop wedged against the bottom of the door and the bare floor. If they are in full contact with the floor and the bottom of the door, they can be a formidable barrier. The more force is applied to the door, the more the doorstop wedges itself upward against the door and downward against the floor; a rubber backed floor mat rolled up at the base of an entry door can have a similar effect. A chair or a two by four wedged between the doorknoband floor are additional examples. These barriers can serve to alert the occupant and delay entry long enough to take defensive countermeasures plan.

Check for locked windows. Once again; no criminal countermeasures can protect you or your family, if you don’t use them. This means every night before you go to bed and before you leave.

Cover your windows. Shades or curtains can prevent criminals from seeing your valuables: big screen T.V.s, stereos, computers, guns, silverware, etc. As we said previously, criminals will often walk or drive through a neighborhood for the most valuable targets. Let’s face it, criminals are dumb, but they’re not stupid. They are less prone to break into a house, when they don’t know; if there will
be anything of value inside. And, they’re much more prone to break into
a house, when they know there are valuables in the house.

Lock your windows. Once again, criminals are lazy by nature, so anything you can do to make it harder for a criminal to gain entry into your house is an additional deterring factor. Often times, criminals are leery of breaking windows, because it creates too much noise which could alarm the occupants or a neighbor. Therefore, they will push a
thin blade knife or screwdriver up between the bottom and top storm windows to force open the mid window locking mechanism. This is why;
it’s a good idea to install windows with more than a single mid window
locking mechanism. If your home already has the single mid window locking mechanism, you can supplement your window security
protection by installing simple sliding throw latches at the bottom of your
windows. These small sliding throw latches attached to the bottom corners of both sides of your storm windows/frames are easy to install
small metal/wood screws, and they provide an additional security from
outside entry, but allow quick and easy escape. Remember, never install any physical security barriers or devices on your residence which will inhibit or prevent you or your family from a quick escape in an emergency, and make sure they all comply with local fire codes.

Install removable locking pins. There are other low cost ways to enhance a single window locking mechanism such as those in older wooden frame windows. The lower window frame overlaps the upper window frame, so we drill a 1/4” diameter hole (from the inside of the residence) through the upper left and right corners of the lower window frame and partially into the lower left and right corners of the upper window frame, and then we insert a 1/8” diameter flat head nail into the
1/4” diameter hole. The nails will prevent the window from be force up/open; however, the 1/8” flat head nails can quickly and easily be removed to open the window in case of a fire or other emergency. This same process can be used on exterior sliding doors. Never, ever nail shut or barricade your windows in anyway; these efforts will inhibit or prevent an emergency exit.






Install plastic “Security Film”. This material is similar to very heavy clear plastic tape, and it can be found and purchased on line. It’s made in different thicknesses. The thicker the film the harder it is to break the through a window. It’s laid over the inside surface of the window, and once it’s properly adhered to the glass; the window is much more resistant to breakage. It requires numerous impacts to gain enough entry to reach inside and unlock the window, and then it takes even more impacts to completely break out the window for whole body entry. The last thing a criminal wants to do is make a lot of noise and bring attention to what he’s doing.

Install alarm systems. They’re a great deterrent to break-ins. Posting alarm system signs in the yard and/or on windows can cause a potential burglar to avoid your house and move to down the street to find another opportunity. They can also scare off a burglar, after they attempt entry, and the audible alarm begins sounding. The best alarms have automatic battery or generator backup, so they will continue to
operate, if the power source is cut or under emergency conditions. They also continue to operate over mobile phone systems, after the conventional phone lines are cut or land line services are knocked out. They even come with an emergency panic alarm and fire detection units. Once they’re installed, their proactive abilities can often help to reduce your home owner insurance rates.

Some systems can be utilized without installation wiring or a monthly monitoring fee, but no monitoring means no automatic emergency service contacts. However, the signs are still a deterrent, and the audible alarm can still scare off a burglar.

Use your car alarm. If you live in an urban area or in close proximity to a neighbor, this can be a low cost security option. Most car alarms have a panic button for emergency situations. Activating this button blows the horn and makes the lights flash. This can scare off an intruder as well as awaken or alert neighbors, so they can call the police. The sounding alarm and flashing lights can also help direct the
responding law enforcement personnel to your location. Use this type of alarm system judiciously. If you use it too often, your neighbors may disregard it.

A barking dog is an alarm system. And, it’s the most cost effective alarm system around. They can also smell a stranger outside and alert the occupant with their barking, whereas the vast majority of the available alarm systems will only begin to sound, after a door/window is broken or entry has been gained.

A barking dog can also be a deterrent to a criminal, once he knows that his efforts to enter undetected have failed, he must assume the occupant will have enough time to implement a countermeasure or just get to a gun. These alarm dogs don’t have to be attack dogs or even large dogs. Their main purpose is to bark and alert the occupant; thereby, giving the occupant time to react.

However, the best of both worlds would be to have an alarm dog that’s also a large attack dog. If you choose this option, you need to understand, dogs will not attack on their own; they need to be trained to do so. That’s right, attacking a man is not in their nature, unless they
are starved for food, or they have been cornered and forced into attacking out of desperation.

Install physical electronic countermeasures. Since the age of the personal computer and the internet are upon us, no perimeter security system is complete without it. These countermeasures protect you and your family’s personal identity information from criminals who could otherwise invisibly enter your home from almost anywhere in the world. A “Unified threat management” (UTM) device is your first line of defense. It replaces the router in your modem, and it catches invasive software, before they get into your computer; however, it should not stand alone. You still need to install anti-virus, anti-worm, anti-malware, and anti-trojan software as a back up to any UTM device.


This is the final ring of security; your last ditch effort at protecting your life and your family. It comes into play, when the other two rings of security were breached, so it must be the hardest target.

Have an emergency action plan. My plan “A” is retreat to the safe room “IF” possible. Plan “B” is take whatever action is needed to protect my family and myself, this include all physical and armed countermeasures. This plan must be shared with everyone living in the house. If other family members have a role in the plan, they should clearly understand their role. If their role is involved in the physical and/or armed countermeasures, they should receive the proper training and remedial training.

Firearm(s) are a must. If the first two rings of security failed to deter or stop a criminal or an attacker, they’ve demonstrated their determination to gain access to your property or more seriously to you or your family. This type of determination may require the ultimate solution by firearm.

However, this ultimate solution requires what we call, “The three
A’s of firearms survival”:

  • Access – to a firearm
  • Ability – to use a firearm
  • Attitude – to use a firearm

Any firearm must be readily accessible, whether it is a handgun, rifle or shotgun. This means accessibility from any location in the house within seconds. If your firearm is locked up in your gun safe in the basement, and your seated in your recliner in the living, when the break in occurs, your failure to plan has forced you into an unarmed defensive situation with one or more possibly armed attackers.

However, every firearm must be stored safely and in accessible to children and unauthorized adults. An effective way to address practical accessibility as well as safety concerns is with the use of a “Gun Vault”. These are individual battery operated handgun safes. They are roughly the size of a shoe box, and they have a “No-Eyes” needed control panel with an optical fingerprint sensor as well as touch- operated activation accessibility. They are designed with contoured grooves and raised dots/buttons on the top the box. The grooves allow you to find the dot/buttons in total darkness, and the dots/buttons allow you to punch in your exclusive pre-programmed access code or it reads your pre-programmed fingerprint, after which the electronic front door pops open to quickly remove a loaded firearm. They can be temporarily placed or affixed near your recliner and/or other locations throughout your home for an armed emergency. Every “Gun Vault” should have a key backup for weapon access, if the battery operations system fail to open the door.

  • One quick access option, if you’re a concealed carry permit holder, is to find a comfortable holster and just continue to wear it inside the house.
  • As another quick access option, you can also stage an unloaded semiautomatic handgun in an elevated location (out of the reach of children) and carry a loaded magazine, for that particular firearm, in your pocket for quick access and loading of your firearm. This can also be accomplished using an unloaded revolver; simply stage it in an elevated location and carry a loaded speed-loader for that particular firearm in your pocket.
  • You must train for this type of armed close quarter combat.
    This training will give you the required ability, you need, to effectively implement the ultimate firearms solution.
  • You must be committed as well as trained and educated in the survival attitude and have a practical understanding of the criminal/predator mindset. Utilize a safe room (Panic room). This is a room hardened against criminal attack and forced entry. Safe rooms can be designed into new construction, or they can be installed in pre-existing homes
    with modular units. A safe room should be located on every floor of your home. In a criminal break in, the home owners/occupants can retreat to the safe room, and they can use it as a fortified position from which to defend against the attackers, while they await the arrival of law enforcement. This is a sound tactical plan.

Twenty five hundred years ago, General Sun Tzu wrote a book
titled, “The Art of War”, in which he said never attack the high ground.
Its elevated location makes it too formidable a defensive advantage. His words are still true today. It is better to fight from a defensive position.

This is a hard thing to embrace, when we’re talking about retreating to a defensive position in your own home. Keep in mind; the fundamental objective of your personal defensive plan is to protect the life and well being of you and your family not to protect property, so whenever possible get everyone into the safe room.

Matt Canovi
Canovi & Associates
p: 417-742-3435  m: 636-259-0267
a: 3705 W Farm road 14
  Brighton, MO 65617
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