Many common locking systems are inadequate to keep a professional burglar out. So what do you do?
Before you buy anything, you should evaluate the normal entrances to your home. Your main concern is whether or not your property affords privacy to someone trying to defeat a locked door. One problem here is the conflicting concerns of privacy verses security. If you have shrubery and trees obscuring the view of your front door from the street, that's the first place a burglar is going to try to enter. This applies to other doors as well. Back doors are often situated so that no one can see someone trying to tamper with them. Review your property with these things in mind, and do what you can about them.
Before we get to the various inexpensive-but-effective measures you can take, let's briefly discuss the idea of a full-blown, monitored security system. This is the type of system where you install sensors on doors, motion sensors and the like, and a system for arming the sensors. It is monitored by professionals at another location whenever the system is armed. The effectiveness of these systems depend heavily on the quality of the company providing the service. The problem with them is that it is difficult for a consumer to know exactly how responsive the provider is. We will try to provide you with some guidelines for choosing a good provider in the upcoming article.
The first and most basic thing that any security-minded family should do with their doors is to install dead-bolt locks. Some are better than others, but the main benefit of these locks is that the design prevents the common entry method of slipping a plastic credit card or other device in and pushing back the projectile. The best type of dead-bolt locks have a one inch throw, and are made of case-hardened steel. In addition, they must be installed securely to the door and the door casing. It is very important that they have a knob on the interior side operated by hand, not by key. Police and fire professionals warn strongly about this. Security should always be planned with the family's safety in mind. You don't want your child to be trapped in the home during a fire because she can't find the key. For this same reason, it is also unwise to use too many locking devices on one door.
If you have entries with double doors installed, you should install upper and lower flush bolts on one door (the inactive door), and keep them locked. The other door should be equipped with a quality dead bolt. Do not install flush bolts on both doors as this presents a safety problem.
A nice, and very inexpensive alternative to a dead bolt lock is a throw-over latch. This device is installed in the jamb, and is hinged so that a panel on the inside is thrown over the edge of the door and allowed to drop into a mechanical lock mounted on the door. To release it, you simply lift it and throw it over the jamb molding and away from the door. Of course, this requires no key, and is easy to use. The big drawback is that it cannot be used to lock the door when one leaves the house because it can't be locked or unlocked from the outside. This might be a viable inexpensive alternative on doors not commonly used to enter or exit the home.
A few other options
The largest part of protecting your family is discouraging perpetrators, or making it inconvenient for them. It is nearly impossible to completely prevent crime. But while crime can't be prevented, it can usually be directed away from you and your family.
If you feel that installing quality, secure locks on your entry doors is not enough to prevent unwanted entry through them, you might think about one of the several inexpensive motion detectors that can be installed near the interior side of doors. Some of these trigger loud and irritating alarms that might further deter a burglar who gets through the door. These devices provide most of the same benefits of a full security system, and will usually lead the intruder to believe that he has tripped such a system. But their cost is a small fraction of the cost of a monitored system.
If you feel that one deadbolt lock on your door is not enough, it would be better to use a portable jamming device rather than installing multiple locks. This could be a simple rubber door stop at the bottom of the door, or there are devices that combine the mechanical jamming function with an alarm, which is triggered if the jam is defeated. Any of these can be simply kicked out of the way in an emergency and, like the throwover devices, they are used to secure only those inside (they can't be used to secure an empty home).
Finally, there is no substitute for quality entry doors, properly constructed casings, and properly installed locks. You can buy the highest quality locks and other devices, but they won't do you a lot of good if your door can be broken or knocked off its hinges by a 98-pound weakling.