MEXICO HOME SECURITY TIPS PRESENTED AT RECENT CONCHUS CHINAS HOA MEETING
Here is the advice developed by Luis Salazar & Harry Reifschneider for the Conchas Chinas Homeowners. The English is followed by a Spanish translation.
Security suggestions for Mexico Homeowners
Residents have expressed a lot of concern over what seems to be an increase in break-ins and burglaries. Obviously this is a concern no matter where you live but even more so when homes are left unoccupied for long periods of time. Security is an issue that needs to be addressed by homeowners. There is very little that the association can do, even if they could afford to improve security in the area. We all need to take personal responsibility for our property and do everything we can to make our homes as secure as possible. This document will give some suggestions for what can be done to do a security audit to identify the issues that need improvement.
Most residential burglars devote little if any time to the advance planning of any specific break-in. Their crimes are, for the most part, crimes of opportunity. They pick what appears to be an easy mark. If their advance checking and closer examination reveal a greater risk than anticipated, they move onto a safer target. The more you can do to keep your home from looking like an easy target, the safer you are. The majority of break-ins are done by individuals who are familiar with your property and incredibly often these break-ins are accomplished with a key. Good security in this area is often a function of creating the “impression” (or illusion) that your security is good. If there are obvious security failures, they will be obvious to people looking for a quick score. Burglars look for homes with easy access. If your home is difficult, they’ll go somewhere else.
The following will provide some suggestions on doing a quick audit of your security. Many simple changes can significantly help to make your property secure.
1. Plan to “burglarize” yourself. You’ll discover any weaknesses in your security system that may have previously escaped your notice. 2. Change all the locks and tumblers when you move into a new house. 3. If you lose your keys, change the locks immediately. 4. Trees located near windows or shrubbery that might shield a burglar from view can be major flaws in your home-protection plan. Consider your landscaping plan in light of your protection needs. 5. Your house should appear occupied at all times. Use timers to switch lights and radios on and off when you’re not at home. If at all possible, use 7 day timers so lights can go on and off at different times every day. Nothing is more obvious than the same single light going on and off at the same time every day for weeks on end. 6. All windows and doors on ground and upper floors should be locked securely. Including garage doors, skylights and openings in the fence or wall. If windows are hidden from view of the street, bars are an added level of protection. 7. Add some kind of security to the tops of your walls. Use glass or metal spikes, etc. to make it as difficult as possible. 8. Make sure that the access doors to you home are well lit at night. Also pay specific attention to any other areas around your home that can provide concealment for an intruder, also to protect yourself if arriving home alone late at night. 9. Be sure to park you car in a well lit area and obviously keep it locked. 10. Consider Neighborhood Watch and other “watch schemes” as these are excellent ways for communities to fight burglary. 11. Get to know your immediate neighbors and their habits and how often they are around. A very small group of helpful neighbors can make a big difference. 12. Be on the lookout for suspicious people in the neighborhood and don’t be afraid to ask what they are doing there. 13. Make sure that your house number is prominently displayed for emergency personnel to find your home. 14. Make sure that you are not leaving ladders or other tools laying around the yard that would assist an intruder. 15. Ask for credentials from any sales-person who requests entry to your home. Ask that their ID be pushed under the door. Many professional burglars use this cover to check out homes. If you’re doubtful, check with the person’s office before letting him or her in. 16. Do not list your full name on your mailbox or your entry in the telephone book. Use only your initial and your last name. 17. If someone comes to your door asking to use the phone to call a mechanic or the police, keep the door locked and make the call yourself.
B. The structure itself
1. Make sure that you have deadbolt locks on all of your exterior doors. It is also a good idea to have at least one interior room with a door that locks as a place to leave valuables. When doing so, be mindful to have interior door locks with keys that are different then you front door. If you give a maid or other employees a key, it can only work on the front door not giving them access to the interior rooms that you want to keep secure with your valuables. 2. Remember that deadbolts with a knob on the inside are not as secure as one that requires a key on both sides. Keyed locks are not as convenient for you but they’re also less convenient for an intruder. If they break a window to get in, make sure that the broken window is the only way for them to remove your valuables as well. 3. As a safety, in the event of a fire, ALWAYS leave your interior key on the inside in the lock with the cylinder engaged when at home, or make it a habit to leave the key in the SAME place all the time for easier egress. 4. Make sure that outside door hinges are mounted on the inside of the house. Also make sure that the doors are strong enough to withstand excessive force. Your doors where visitors are admitted should also have a peephole. 5. Make sure that all sliding glass doors have been modified to prevent it being moved or lifted off the track. It should also have an interior device in place to make sure it can’t be opened if the lock is compromised, something as simple as a large dowel or broomstick cut to length and dropped into the bottom track of a slider will prevent it from being opened. 6. Vertically opening windows should be secured with a window grill or grate. All casements of the windows should be securely locked. 7. Pay attention to the garage, particularly if it is connected to the interior of the house. Make sure that the door is securely locked. When you leave town, it is wise to have it secured with a deadbolt or padlock, the opener unplugged, etc. Make sure that the door between the garage and the house has an effective deadbolt lock from the inside.
C. The interior
1. Be sure to check the doors and windows before you leave home. 2. It is a good idea to keep doors and windows locked even while you are home, particularly when you sleep. In Vallarta a number of break-ins occur while owners are sleeping. 3. When you leave, close your drapes or blinds. 4. Do things to make it appear that someone is home. Lights can be hooked up to a timer, and a radio can be set to come on at preset times, etc. 5. When you answer the door make sure you know who is at the door. Look through the peephole, etc. If you don’t know the person at the door and were not expecting them, don’t open the door. Talk to them through the door until you are certain. In Vallarta there are numerous instances of a phony deliver, or poll being taken simply to case the property for burglary. Simply be very careful who you let into your home. Anyone who comes through the door could be scoping around for valuables or to assess your security. 6. Don’t give anyone “too much” information. Business cards that you give out to people you don’t know should probably not have an address. When you get a call from someone you don’t know be careful about answering questions that don’t make sense. Creative burglars will use the phone to get information they can use in a future break-in. It might seem silly but, don’t even give someone on the phone your address. Make sure your employees understand that they are not to provide information about you to anyone over the phone, etc. when you are not home. They also need to be careful about talking about their job or their boss with their friends or others.
1. Never allow people to work in your home without supervision. 2. Be very careful about who you give a key. Keys are easy to duplicate and many people will do just that. 3. Before turning your house key over to a house cleaner for several hours, make sure the person is honest and reputable as well as hardworking. Check all references thoroughly on potential employees. In Mexico, unlike the US, former employers are not afraid to give an honest assessment of their previous employees. 4. Never hire anyone without contacting previous employers. 5. Make sure you have a current inventory of valuable contents of your home. Take digital pictures and keep a current list, with a second hard copy somewhere safe. An inventory does not good if it is on the laptop that just got stolen. 6. Get a good safe to keep valuables secure. Have it installed well in a place that will not be immediately obvious. Don’t let even you most trusted employees know where it is. 7. Restrict access to keys to your house to only the most trusted employees. Don’t give them keys to more then one door into the house. If you have an interior locked room, do not give out that key.
1. You can’t have too much lighting. Make sure that your home is well lit at all times at night. 2. You can also add lights that are triggered by motion in areas that are not well lit otherwise. They make it much more difficult for a burglar to operate undetected. Motion sensor lights can also alert you to movement on or near you property when you are home. 3. CCHA does what they can to keep the present lighting system operating. It would help if everyone would take on lighting as a personal responsibility and add lights on their property, near or on the street. This would make a big difference in security for all. 4. Lights are not expensive and with new technology like fluorescents and LCDs make their use much less expensive to operate.