It is true that people work their jobs to earn money so that we can provide for our families, but a satisfying career also involves a sense of service to the communities that we call home. Locksmiths are the people that you call when you are locked out of your car, home, or business, and it is a satisfying feeling to get someone back on the road so that they can pick their kids up from school on time. But locksmiths are also charged with the very important task of keeping the communities that we serve safe from intruders, and we take that responsibility very seriously.
In light of the recent economic downturn, there are people out there who are increasingly becoming more desperate and perhaps more willing to try to take what is not theirs. In the inner-city areas of larger metropolitan areas, home intrusions and business burglaries are always a concern, and it is up to security locksmiths to provide the protection and deterrence that these communities count on for their safety. But the current economic conditions are causing a spike in the crime rates in suburban areas as well, and law enforcement analysts across the country are predicting a rising wave of recession-related crime.
The Police Executive Research Forum recently conducted a survey. They interviewed representatives of more than 200 police departments across the country, and nearly half of them reported a significant and noticeable rise in what they considered to be “recession-related” criminal activity. What types of crimes have they seen increasing at alarming rates? Not surprisingly, these law enforcement professionals report that they are seeing an uptick in thefts, robberies, and burglaries, and they feel as though the sunken economy is the primary culprit.
Experts who have studies crime trends as they rise and fall relative to economic conditions are not surprised to hear the news coming from the nation’s police departments. “There’s little question that crime rates peak during or, on occasion, immediately after a recessionary period,” said University of Missouri-Saint Louis sociologist Richard Rosenfeld, who is an authority on crime patterns. He goes on to say that crime has risen during each of the last five recessions. But there is a double-whammy at play here. During a recession, while crime rates are increasing, public safety departments have to roll back their budgets. When people lose their jobs, they lose their spending power. Sales tax revenues wane, and of course mass foreclosures result in a significant decrease in property tax revenue. Law enforcement budgets are impacted, so there are fewer people comprising that “thin blue line” as the crime rates rise.
This is why preventative locksmith services are so important during a recession. To keep people safe, every good locksmith has to stay abreast of the strategies that the bad guys are using to try to break into the homes, vehicles, and businesses of our customers. It is our job stay one step ahead of them, and that is what we do. The current intrusion method of choice is something called lock bumping, and we will discuss lock bumping in depth here.
“Bumping locks” is a term used to describe a method of manipulating a standard tumbler type lock with a specially cut “bump” key, and this approach is very popular among thieves because it works, it is discrete, and it leaves little if any evidence. The method is also very easy to learn, and the special “bump key” that is used can be obtained cheaply over the Internet for as little as one dollar.
HOW EXACTLY IS A LOCK BUMPED?
The answer to this question starts with the tool used to bump a lock called a bump key. When bumping a lock, the bump key (cut in a special 999 pattern ensuring maximum teeth depth) is initially inserted into the keyway one notch (pin) short of full insertion. Bumping the key inward forces it deeper into the keyway. The specially designed teeth of the bump key transmit a slight impact force to all of the bottom pins in the lock. The key pins transmit this force to the driver pins while the key pins stay in place. What happens next is interesting. Because the pin movements are highly elastic, the driver pins “jump” from the key pins for a fraction of a second, moving higher than the cylinder (shear line of the tumbler), then are pushed back by the spring to sit against the key pins once again. Even though this separation only lasts a split second, if a light rotational force is continuously applied to the key during the slight impact, the cylinder will turn during the short separation time of the key and driver pins, and the lock can be opened. Below is a diagram to help picture the explanation:
The lock bumping techique is a burglar‘s dream come true: it can sometimes take just seconds to open a lock, and it works on over 90% of the locks that are on the market today. The good news is that security locksmiths can protect their customers from lock bumping thieves. With a little bit of education and an upgrade to your household locks, a professional locksmith can easily render your property immune to lock bumping. Medeco locks are known throughout the locksmith industry as one of the most reliable bump proof locks. Primus by Schlage and MUL-T-LOCK locks are also reliable bump proof choices. Master Lock offers bump proof locks that can keep you safe as well, and the video below does a great job explaining how lock bumping works, and how bump proof locks stop would-be thieves in their tracks:
So What Can I Do to Deter Lock Bumping?
The first step to protecting yourself is to understand the risk that is involved when you use tumbler type locks and to then do all that you can to mitigate that risk. It may not be financially feasible to install nothing but bump proof locks throughout your home, because even though they are very effective, they are also expensive–they cost about $150 per lock. But there are some simple steps a homeowner can take to make their property less appealing to lock bumpers.
1. Make sure each of your exterior doors are protected by two keyed locks, with one being a deadbolt lock. When a burglar is casing a neighborhood, he is probably going to bypass a home with multiple locks and look for easier prey.
2. Any valuables that can be seen in plain sight through the windows should be moved to a less conspicuous location. Houses that are burglarized are almost always scouted beforehand to make sure the effort pays off.
3. Use your deadbolts! It is so simple to turn a knob and engage a deadbolt latch, but homeowners are oftentimes too lazy or forgetful to do so. This basic step can mean the difference between a frustrated burglar and one who can gain easy access to your home.
4. Have good relations with your neighbors. You can have the most advanced security system on the block, but nothing beats the watchful eye of a good neighbor. Establish a community watch program if one does not already exist, especially if your area is prone to house robberies. By doing this, you will not only ensure the safety of your home and the homes of your neighbors, but lower crime rates will increase the value of homes throughout your neighborhood.
5. Be proactive. These are simple and inxpensive steps anyone can take to protect their home. If you are not dead-bolting your door, or not even locking it to begin with, you are inviting trouble. Take care of the simple things that are within your control first, and then evaluate how you can utilize your available budget to add security upgrades.
Top Notch Security
If you do have the resources to do all that is possible to make your property virtually impenetrable to intruders, these are the steps that we would recommend.
1. Change out all your old locks. It is well worth the money to replace your older deadbolts, which are almost certainly 5-pinned locks, with newer 6-pinned locks such as those offered by Kwikset under the Titan brand. Six pinned locks are much more difficult to bump open than are five pinned locks.
2. Lighting, lighting, lighting. Make sure your house is well lit and use floodlights where appropriate. Motion sensors should be placed at all entrances to your house and the lights should be timed accordingly.
3. Security. Home security systems have come a long way over the last few years, and the current state-of-the-art systems have become extremely sophisticated. Advanced home security systems are now linked directly to police stations and mobile command units who are immediately alerted when your property is compromised. But remember, a home security system won’t do you much good if it is not armed and online, so you still have to be proactive in doing what is within your power to keep your property secure, even when you have the right equipment.
4. Use a security sign out front and in the windows to alert potential robbers that your house is not easy pickings. This alone will deter most casual burglars, but if you follow the other steps that we outlined as well, it is very likely that your home will be safe from intrusion even if the signs alone don’t do the trick.
These are some simple steps to protect yourself and your home from bump locking. You should now understand the significant threat that lock bumping poses and have a good idea of how you can protect yourself from this effective but preventable burglary technique. Having a certified security locksmith install bump proof locks around your home may sound expensive when you first hear a quote. But if you can afford the investment, it is surely less costly than a home intrusion that results in the loss of your most valued and prized possessions.