Dear PoP – Security Options after a Break-in

Photo by PoPville flickr user dynagroove1

“Dear PoP,

Got home to find my ground level condo had been broken into. I live on 13th street, nw – and since moving in have witnessed fairly low levels of crime aside from the occasional visible auto theft on 13th street (broken glass). My rear door was kicked in today. The kids clearly were in a rush and went through drawers, closets, etc, and settled on stealing my laptop. My question to you, and all PoP readers, is, do you think installing ADT or other similar security systems is a deterrent to these crimes, and does anyone know good security door installers? I recall an earlier post about french door installers, but would like more specific/company responses. MPD was on the scene within 15 minutes and was helpful – but reinforced the conclusion that the perps were likely 15 years old and would never be caught.”

We talked about some alarm company recs here and had a discussion on alarms vs security bars here. Do you think alarms are a good deterrent?

57 Comment

  • Statistics say houses with alarms systems and even just signs in the front and one windows detered some crimes.

    But I believe it should just be one piece in your arsenal for fighting back. Every challenge you give the criminals is one more chance they will give up and seek booty elsewhere.

    A big fence, bars (if you like that prison look), a dog, strong windows, automatic lights, etc… it all helps.

    • My house on 13th St. was broken into through the back door that was kicked in. This occurred on Feb. 13th and a few things, including a laptop were stolen. My neighbors have bars on their doors and I did not – but do now.
      They went past my lab. who barked at them, but, nevertheless, they went after stuff they could easily carry.

      Go to Northeast Iron Works – they are great. Ask for Dan and tell him Phil from 13th St. sent you.

  • J&L Ironworks can install bars and gates. I actually find them quite reassuring.

    • +1 We had our windows replaced and the bars had to come off for the install. The window company asked if we wanted to leave them off and were a little surprised when we asked them to put them back. I’m not crazy about the look but I love being able to leave our windows open when we go to sleep or to work.

    • +1. Love J&L, they did a great job on my new house.

      I also LOVE my alarm company, Urban Alarm. Highly recommend.

  • Yikes. Where on 13th are you (generally)?

    • Between Kenyon and Otis. Has anyone had any experience with Iron Kingdom? They make a very attractive outer gate that is painted and looks good.

  • Sorry this happened to you. I wish nothing but the worst for these assholes. Seriously, I hope they get an unbearably itchy and untreatable rash in an unreachable place.

  • My home has bars too. I never thought of it or have felt it makes my home appear like a prison. I enjoy the security of them (peace of mind) and love being able to open the doors while having the security of a metal gate door. If I owned my home, I’d have fun with the colors of the building and paint the bars a contrasting color, but I don’t.

  • Nobody wants the bars, but that’s the primary deterrent. It’s also helpful if you want to leave your windows open or whatever while you’re at home.

    We have both bars and ADT– bars on all the lower level doors and windows, ADT on all windows and doors on all levels, motion detector in the basement. With both bars and the alarm system, we sleep easy. Here’s looking forward to a day where neither are necessary in our neighborhood…

  • I have an ADT alarm system– alarm systems won’t prevent a theft or crime but may deter crime. The value of ADT is the response to the alarm and notification. If someone really wanted to break into my house they could, regardless if I had an alarm or not. ADT will at least notify the police of the alarm. I’d like to think the siren going off in the house would minimize the time a criminal would spend going through my stuff.

    • ah

      I have ADT, and while it’s not cheap I have to say the cops have come in a flash the couple of times it’s gone off (accidentally). Now, maybe I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood where the cops have nothing better to do (i.e., no food trucks to hassle), but unless a thief had immediately grabbed my laptop and nothing else, they’d be caught.

  • An alarm company in ideal circumstances might get the cops to your house in 7-10 minutes. A burgler can get away with a lot in that time. Even if the cops show up the robber can just drop everything and run and know he is unlikely to ever face prosecution or consequences.

    Your primary goal is to make it really hard to get into your house in the first place – that might mean bars.
    They don’t have to look awful. It definitely means having a professional check your house. Doors with great dead-bolt locks can be kicked in because the door frames are crap.

    Really sorry for the trauma you have experienced – and wishing some peace your way.

    • I don’t disagree with your comments. Having worked for ADT in the past I can say that it would take the police a minimium of 7 minutes to show up. But reducing the time a thief is in my house to 7 minutes is much more desirable than a thief in my house for 2 hours, clearing the place out because the police haven’t been notified.

      Again, I agree you want to make it hard to get into the house in the first place.

      • Have a couple of friends come over and she what they can carry out of your house in 7 minutes. Heck – in two hours thieves are pawning the drywall screws.

      • In my apartment in boston, the thieves had enough time to sit around and eat our food and drink for a while as well as clearing out all of my roommates jewelry and my electronics.

        I recommend the alarm.

  • greenroofgoddess

    We were broken into this afternoon. Our house is on Holmead, but they came in through the alley (betwen Homead and 13th) and used a crowbar to bust open the reinforced steel door to our utility room. Luckily, all our doors and windows are alarmed, so we got a call and the cops beat us there. Looks like it scared off the thieves as they didn’t get away with anything, but my hubby is now spending the afternoon at Home Depot getting a new steel door. I hope these creeps rot in hell.

    • ugh … sorry to hear the awful news. Invest in a dog … preferably one with a nice loud bark. I “believe” ours has kept the thieves at bay (hopefully not jinxing myself): our two neighbors have had break-ins while we have not.

      • You don’t “Invest in a dog” for home defense. You get a dog for a friend animal – because you love dogs and have the time and energy to care for one. Usually s/he will also bark at intruders.

        • +1

          I hate it when people suggest getting a dog to deter break-ins. For a lot of people, it’s simply not a practical solution. It’s like people saying, “But who’s going to take care of you when you get old??” when I say I don’t want kids — as if THAT should be the sole criteria for having children!

        • You douchebag. The poster wasn’t advocating training the dog to be a guard dog. She was saying that having a dog will dissuade people from breaking in –especially a dog with a loud bark.

    • Sorry to hear about your break-in, GreenRoofGoddess. What part of your door system was destroyed by the crowbar? Was it a steel door in a standard wooden frame? I only ask because I recently installed a new steel entry door and I reinforced the frame with steel using a product called Door Jamb Armor. I’m hoping my system is secure, but am concerned by your report. Thanks.

      • Really the only way to know for sure is to get a 200# man to try to kick it in. I can kick in a door jamb with a dead bolt lock in all the time it takes me to extend my leg.

        The weak point is always the wood stud. I can’t tell exactly how your new system works, but if it has a steel plate, it’s going to be safer than a normal door.

  • Cops caught a burglar in my parents house. They were there in ~2 minutes. It really depends on who’s working the phones at 9-11 dispatch and where the nearest car is.

  • Dogs scare most residential burglars. It’s just not worth the hassle.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    I second get a dog. If you need help, come by any Sunday afternoon and I will personally assist you in getting a good match. Do NOT put on the application that you want a guard dog. Dogs are naturally protective, but this will be your BFF.

    • Dianne – do you really think it’s smart or in the best interest of the animal to counsel someone to get a dog if their chief desire for one is its burglar-stumping bark? I’m genuinely surprised that a person associated with an animal welfare organization would make that suggestion.

      • anonymouse_dianne

        You’re an idiot. Do you know what a BFF is?

        • Yep, and I still think it was a foolish comment, however noteworthy WARL is. Incidentally, your insult only showcases how touchy and ignorant you are.

      • + 1 – WARL, please counsel Dianne!

      • Let’s just be realistic for a moment. No one (and let me emphasize that “no one”) gets a dog only for their bark/protection. The expense and upkeep of a dog is very, very high. If someone opts for a dog over ADT or something similar, that means they want a dog. If all you want is protection, you’ll get an alarm for $40/month which doesn’t eat or poop on the floor.

        More people should be adopting anyway.

        • Wish that were true Tres. The expense and upkeep of a dog for a shitty owner is unfortunately, very very low.

        • No *decent* person gets a dog only for protection. That’s like saying no person has a child if they don’t really want to love and care for him/her.

  • About a month after we got our alarm system we were burglarized. The burglers came in through the non-alarmed window, but opened up the back door, triggering the alarm. The alarm must have scared them into running off because nothing was damaged or stolen. I had mixed feelings about the alarm, but it really worked for us.

  • Alarms are like steering wheel locks – effective not because they are unbeatable but because they tell potential thieves there are easier targets to be hit.
    Bought my house with bars on the basement and first floor windows. I plan to remove the bars on the front windows (I just don’t see someone having the nerve to climb through a front window to break in a house) but will leave the bars on the basement door and windows, and first floor windows in the back.

  • wireless home surveillance camera. your welcome.

  • what about those iron doors that open into the sidewalk for cellar access into restaurants? Just weld a couple on at the stairs to your place and you’re good to go.

  • I have bars and an alarm, it just makes me feel safe. Of course nothing is foolprrof, but if someone is looking for an easy target, and you have bars……you may not be their first choice!

    Best of luck.
    Sorry this happened to you.

  • Get good, strong bars and an alarm system. I rented a place that had both, but we didn’t want to pay for a landline so we didn’t activate the alarm. The crackheads that broke in were not deterred by the ADT signs, and simply bent the bars to get in through a window. And since there was no alarm going off they took their sweet time going through every drawer, cabinet, closet, even cutting holes in the matresses and boxsprings looking for god knows what. It was a huge mess.

  • Somebody broke in our basement door window once aboutr 7 years ago when we were on vacation, but never entered. We had 2 dogs at the time and I am fairly positive that the dogs are what scared them off. The dog sitter never even discovered the broken glass. I definitely do not advise anybody getting a dog for the purpose of protecting property, but they sure do scare away intruders pretty effectively.

    • Do your dogs roam the house loose? It seems like they wouldn’t be much of a deterrent otherwise.

  • Tom at Federal City Iron (2025471945) was extremely helpful in advising what windows and doors he recommended putting bars/security gates on (He didn’t tell us to do every single one. I probably would have paid him too because I was naive at the time.) Honest, helpful guy. He even told me our basement door didn’t need it since it was a metal door in a metal frame and was just as strong as security gates. highly recommend you call him.

  • For those that had bars installed on windows, what was the ballpark cost?

  • We have bars on our first floor windows and alarms on the doors. Guardian does a great job. Once my DH accidentally hit the emergency button on his alarm remote/keychain and Guardian had the cops there in five minutes.

    Also make sure your neighbors (or you) don’t leave ladders hanging about. A former congressman who owns a house in our neighborhood left junk in his back yard, including a ladder. some enterprising burglars used it to break into the upstairs windows of a neighboring house. Another neighbor actually saw them and thought they were a construction crew because they opened the unlocked second-story front windows. Other lesson: don’t assume they won’t go for the front and don’t leave upstairs windows unlocked or open.

  • We’re getting bars from Bini’s Ironworks. They are charging about $500 for grates on the doors and about $1300 to do two regular windows, one big window, and two little basement windows. I checked with J+L Ironworks, and their prices were similar, but Bini’s gives you a discount if you buy them all at once. Price at both includes painting the bars and installation.

  • N&D Security. I cannot recommend them enough. They installed our alarm system when we were renters in Logan Circle in 2006 (paid for by our landlord after every unit in the bldg was broken into). And we hired them to install an alarm when we purchased our home in Petworth. Having an alarm may not be for everyone but it gives me piece of mind, which is a nice thing to get back after your apt has been broken into and totally trashed.

  • We have bars, contact alarms on the doors and windows, and motion detectors. Someone tried to break in a couple of years ago (using a basement window that didn’t have bars at the time). The alarm clearly scared the person off — there were some objects on the windowsill that weren’t disrupted. Also, this seems counterintuitive, but we have a cheap front door (the guy who renovated our house was an idiot), and I think that’s kept us from being broken into. You can tell that someone took a crowbar to the door, but since the metal on the door bent, they couldn’t pop it open.

    The time I’ve been most frightened is when someone took a knife to our lock (to be able to attack when we fumbled with the lock, which luckily never happened). If someone screws with your lock, change it *immediately*!

  • I just bought an alarm system from Safemart and will probably go with them for monitoring.

    We got a GE Simon XT and are running interior glass break sensors, exterior motion detectors, contact sensors for windows and doors, and ultimately, Kwikset deadbolts and some integrated lighting. It’s a pretty cool system and I totally think it’s the way to go if you are, like us, middle-income tech-geek 20-somethings with smart phones and no land line. The system even handles cameras and your thermostat(s) if that’s how you roll. We’re going to remove the bars from our front and back doors and go with normal storm doors. They’re starting to rust and look like heck, and none of our windows are barred, so their marginal deterrent value is minimal unless we put bars over the plate glass out back.

    Of course, anyone that breaks in will in theory find themselves staring at large dogs or the business end of our bird-destroyer. But the dogs are big and friendly, and we don’t keep the bird-smacker loaded (which is illegal in DC), so it’s all a matter of layers of security to provide peace of mind.

  • Cops will tell you anything to put a speedbump in the mind of a burglar will decrease your chances – especially if your unit is in a more vulnerable place (i.e. ground floor).

  • No one has mentioned a gun yet?

    Any potential criminals considering homes on Farragut Pl, please know that at least one has an alarm system and legal guns located inside.

    • A gun is for personal protection when you’re home, this discussion is about what to do when you’re not home.

  • Historically dogs have been service animals to humans–shepherding, protecting, hunting–and not only companions. Just, FYI.

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