Police chief, security experts give advice for home safety

Matt Rowan, of American Lock Shop, LLC., works on a deadbolt at his house.

Millions of burglaries occur every year in the U.S., most of which are home break-ins, making it important for homeowners and renters to secure their belongings by installing security systems, ensuring their locks are working properly, and placing deterrents around the property.

Tahlequah Police Department Chief Nate King said law enforcement officials are fans of outside lighting, keeping houses locked at night, security systems, and paying attention to neighbors.

“I don’t mean by watching [neighbors] as far as getting in trouble, but actually working together as a neighborhood to pay attention to what’s going on around us,” said King. “So if strange people show up or are loitering about, there’s more than one set of eyes watching.”

The majority of property crime in Tahlequah, whether it’s car or home break-ins, happens in the middle of night while most people are asleep. In fact, the TPD is currently looking to identify a group that has been going around breaking into vehicles at night.

“Breaking into cars is kind of a loose term, because they don’t actually get into locked cars,” said King. “They check door handles and only get in cars that are unlocked.”

A home security system with cameras and an alarm can deter would-be thieves and also lead to an arrest. Matt Rowan, owner of American Lock Shop, LLC., and King both agreed that a camera system that includes a time stamp for when the footage was taken is important for getting a conviction.

“Having accurate time and date on your system does help,” said King. “It can be overcome in court, but it does help if it’s correct.”

Cameras can help catch individuals looking to take something that’s not theirs, but it’s not foolproof. People who are up to no good have a tendency to hide their identity.

“So it’s hard on a camera to tell who that person is, unless you know them personally or notice something you’ve seen them wear before,” said Chrissy Turney, of Security Alarms Co. in Muskogee. “The best thing about cameras, though, is getting a vehicle description. A lot of times that helps in identifying someone.”

As burglars become more inventive to ransacking homes, so have security systems. Security Alarms Co. has an app that allows people to arm and disarm their security system from their phone. It also allows homeowners to check the status of their alarm, so if they can’t remember whether they armed their system or not, all they have to do is check the app and turn on their system if they forgot.

There are also a variety of different cameras people can purchase.

“I’m not really crazy about motion-activated cameras,” she said. “The reason why is because motion only works so many feet in front of the camera. I have a camera system that is separate from the alarm that you can also look at on your phone. That camera system records all the time. So if you know when your alarm went off, you can go back on your recorder and look at that time.”

However, what many homeowners fail to realize is they need high-speed internet in order to remotely view their cameras from their phone. They will need good upload speeds and the internet has to be hardwired into the home, said Turney.

At Security Alarms Co., around 6,500 accounts are monitored 24/7. So when someone’s alarm goes off, it sends a signal directly to the office in Muskogee. Security Alarms then will call two numbers the homeowners provide, and ask for a password. If nobody answers, then police will be called.

Turney said some people tend to fear having security alarms installed, because they’re worried about getting used to the new system or setting off false alarms. But the benefits, such as keeping families and their belongings safe, outweigh any anxiety about having a new system in the home.

“The security system protects you and your belongings, but it also is a good thing for your insurance,” said Turney. “Sometimes you can get a discount on your homeowners insurance if you have a security system, as well.”

The doors to a home is one of the last lines of defense. While locking doors at night might seem like a simple task, it’s imperative for those who want to keep their homes safe that they make sure the lock is working properly. Rowan said the biggest mistake he sees is doors are not installed properly to allow for a deadbolt to fully extend.

“When you turn a deadbolt, it should click,” said Rowan. “If you turn it half way and it doesn’t click, you could push that deadbolt in with your finger. When it clicks, that’s when the deadbolt is fully extended and it locks. You could hit it with a hammer and it won’t come back.”

Deadbolts are the best way to secure a door. People should not rely on their doorknob locks to secure the house, as all it takes is the swipe of a credit card for someone to get in.

“I can open doorknobs faster with a credit card than you can find your key and put the key in the hole,” said Rowan. “Doorknobs don’t secure anything. A doorknob is just a handle so you don’t have to unlock your deadbolt every time. It’s just a lazy man’s way of shutting your door.”

Many people, in Oklahoma especially, rely on their trusty firearm to guard themselves and their property. While it certainly is one way to deter potential burglars, King said a firearm is not something the police department would urge everyone to use, as they can potentially put people in more danger if they are not prepared to use it.

“A firearm in the hands of the right person, and by the right person I mean someone that’s trained and dedicated to that, it is an option, but it’s not something that we would necessarily push on everyone,” he said. “There’s more to having a firearm in your home than just pointing and shooting. There is a lot of psychological and physical training that goes into having firearm for your own protection.”

There are plenty of instances where a burglar made their way into a vehicle or home, but didn’t find anything they wanted. In those cases, many people don’t bother to make a report to the police. However, King said even if a burglar doesn’t take any property, it’s important to file a report.

“With our reporting system, we can do a lot of up-to-the-minute crime analysis,” said King. “So that data in our database is helpful to us for tracking and developing suspects. So even if you don’t lose property, we still urge you to report it to us if for no other reason than we can plug it into our formula, as far as where crime is happening, when it’s happening, and how it’s happening.”

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