Question: It seems that almost everyone in our neighborhood has had a burglary within the last few years, and, as a result, nearly every house on the block has installed outdoor lights that burn all night long. From the sky, it must look like a prison camp.
In addition, many of the neighbors keep lights on in their houses all night.
I'm not complaining, because I don't want to be a victim of burglary, but I'm really questioning whether all of these lights will really stop the burglars. It seems to me the lights just make it easier for a potential burglar to break in at night and light the way to the good things in your house once inside. What do you think?
Answer: Lights are definitely a deterrent to break-ins. The outdoor lights may keep a potential burglar from getting close enough to the house to see in the windows and discover that no one is at home. And with indoor lights on, a potential burglar who can't get close to the house without exposing himself to you or your neighbors may assume that someone is at home when you leave indoor lights on.
It would be far better, however, if outdoor lights were on sensors that turn them off during daylight hours and on at night--and the indoor lights would be more effective if they were on timers that turn them on and off. There are timers on the market now that can be programmed to go on and off during the evening to simulate a person's normal movements through the house.
The best "giveaway" information about this subject that I've seen lately is a leaflet published by the National Retail Hardware Assn. It's titled "How to Reduce Chances for Breakins in Your Home"--Leaflet No. 50.
While the leaflet's obvious purpose is to promote the sale of locks and other hardware, there are no brand names mentioned in the text, and a concise description of various types of products is given. And, in all fairness, several of the ideas cost a minimal amount or absolutely nothing.
The first item concerns general safety precautions, such as avoiding regular routines in leaving the house, working out a watch system with your neighbors and precautions to take when you go on vacation. Next is a section on installing outdoor spotlights ("always mount the light high enough that it cannot be unscrewed easily by a burglar on the ground" "flood lights may be better than spotlights for wide areas") and automatic timers.
Information about simple non-electric security devices includes, among other things, how a window can be secured and still be opened when air is needed. (Raise the window three or four inches and drill a 1/2- or 3/4-inch hole through the lower sash and into the upper sash. Attach a steel bolt to the window with a short chain and then insert the bolt into the drilled hole in the sashes.)
Other information deals with electrical- and battery-operated alarm systems and locks for doors.
This leaflet is distributed through hardware stores and home centers free of charge. If you can't get one there, John Sullivan, director of member services for the hardware association, is offering for the first time to make the leaflet available directly to consumers through this column for a small charge. Send 25 cents and a self-addressed, stamped, business envelope (No.10) to National Retail Hardware Assn., 770 N. High School Road, Indianapolis, Ind. 46224. Ask for leaflet No. 50.
Incidentally, the leaflet praises a book on installing protective alarm devices and quotes a price of $5.95. The price for the book has been increased to $7.95.