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6 Ways to Prevent Lock Picking: Burglar-Proof Your Door

how to prevent lock picking
Last Updated on June 2, 2023
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When it comes to protecting your home from lock picking, there are two primary approaches: upgrading your lock or making it significantly more challenging for potential intruders to attempt picking it.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore both avenues, equipping you with practical steps to harden your door locks, explore innovative new deadbolt lock systems, and examine various techniques that will discourage burglars from even approaching your home. Additionally, we will discuss the role of a locksmith in enhancing security features for your residence.

Addressing these often-overlooked aspects of home security, such as alarm systems, neighborhood safety, deadbolt locks, and burglary prevention, will establish a stronger sense of protection and peace of mind for you and your family.

In this guide:

Key Takeaways:

  • Identifying common vulnerabilities is key to burglar-proofing your door. Homeowners should understand the tools and techniques used by burglars, such as lock picking and bumping.
  • Upgrading your locks with a good ANSI Grade 1 or Grade 2 deadbolt that includes security pins (anti-bump pins) and a 1-inch bolt.
  • Adding extra layers of protection like installing motion-sensor lights and cameras, trimming hedges near windows/doors, or investing in a reliable security system can significantly enhance home security measures beyond just protecting doors from lock picking.
  • Always use your locks, even you're home. Smart locks are a great way to ensure your door is always locked.

Methods of Lock Manipulation

Lock picking is a technique used to open a locked door without using the key. There are several ways to manipulate locks, and each method has its own unique way of working. In this section, we will discuss different types of lock manipulation techniques.

  • Bumping: Bumping is a popular method that involves using a specially crafted key to force the pins up and unlock the door. This technique works by inserting the bump key into the lock and then striking it with a hammer or any other tool. The impact causes the pins to jump up for a brief moment, allowing the cylinder to turn freely. Bumping is one of the most common methods used by burglars because it requires minimal skill and can be done quickly. The below methods will also aid you against lock bumping.

  • Impressioning: Impressioning is another method that involves creating a duplicate key by making an impression of the original key. This technique requires more skill than bumping but can be just as effective. To impression a lock, you need to insert a blank key into the lock and then wiggle it around until it makes contact with all of the pins inside. Once you have made contact with all of the pins, you remove the blank key and examine it for marks left by each pin. You then file down those marks until you have created a working duplicate key.

  • Manual Lock Picking: Manual picking is the most traditional method of lock manipulation. This technique involves using lock picks to manually move the pins into place. To pick a lock, you need to insert a tension wrench into the keyhole and apply pressure in the direction that the key would turn. You then use your lock picks to manipulate each pin until they are all set at their correct height, allowing the cylinder to turn freely.

How to Pick Proof Your Door Locks

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an unpickable lock. Every lock can be picked; it's just a matter of time and effort.

However, contrary to popular belief, lock picking is not a prevalent method used by burglars. In fact, according to the most recent National Crime Victimization Survey from the U.S. Department of Justice, lock picking makes up for 1.36% of total burglaries in the US.

Typically, when a thief targets a home, their primary objective is to gain quick entry and exit without drawing attention. Engaging in the time-consuming process of picking a lock increases their risk of being caught. Instead, burglars often resort to forced entry, such as kicking in doors or breaking windows. Surprisingly, 39.5% of unlawful home entries occur simply because homeowners forget to lock their doors, providing an easy opportunity for opportunistic thieves.

However, it is crucial to acknowledge that lock picking remains a potential vulnerability, and a comprehensive home security strategy aims to fortify every conceivable weakness against a burglar. By focusing on enhancing your locks and implementing additional security measures, you can create a robust defense that significantly reduces the likelihood of a successful break-in and help protect your home.

Use a Strong Deadbolt

medeco maxum deadbolt

The most important thing you can do to make your lock harder to pick is to use a strong lock with anti-pick features that make locks harder to pick—such as security pins, additional pins stacks, restrictive keyways, and higher-quality components.

  • Security pins, also called anti-bump pins, are specially designed pin tumblers that snag in the lock when a lock picker tries to lift a pin. Security pins will be enough to discourage most criminals who probably aren't very good at lock picking, to begin with.
  • Additional pin stacks also increase the time required to pick a lock. Most deadbolts will come with 4 to 5 pins, but you can also find cylinders with six pins.
  • Most deadbolts use a Schlage SC1 or Kwikset KW1 keyway. These keyways are quite large and easy to pick. Consider upgrading to a lock with a more secure keyway.
  • Lock quality can affect the pickability of a lock in a significant way. Lock picking takes advantage of the slop in the lock (the gap between pieces). While it’s impossible to manufacture a lock without these imperfections (hence why every lock can be picked), higher-quality manufacturing can produce components with tighter tolerances, which make them harder to pick but more expensive.
  • Another important consideration when choosing a deadbolt is its ANSI lock rating. Always go for a Grade 1 (the best) or Grade 2 deadbolt. However, the bolt length is the most important thing to consider when buying a deadbolt. Always use a 1“ bolt for any exterior door.

If you’re looking for a new deadbolt, check out my list of the best deadbolts of 2023. For a brief answer, the Schlage B560 Deadbolt ranks as the best door lock.

Get a Smart Lock

ultraloq u bolt pro wifi smart lock front

Smart locks are a modern advancement in the realm of home security. These innovative devices replace or augment your traditional lock and key with advanced features that offer a blend of convenience and enhanced security.

At its core, a smart lock allows users to lock and unlock doors via wireless communication. This communication often occurs through a mobile app, keypads, biometrics (such as fingerprints), or smart home automation systems.

But what truly sets smart locks apart from traditional locks is their diverse range of intelligent functionalities.

Some of these standout features include auto-lock, which automatically secures your door after a set period, ensuring that your door is always locked. Access logs keep track of when and by whom the lock was accessed, providing useful data for monitoring home security. Moreover, with app-based unlock and lock systems, you can remotely control your door, eliminating the need for physical keys and the associated risk of loss or theft. Easy user management is another beneficial aspect, allowing you to grant and revoke access to different users from your smartphone.

Perhaps the most appreciated feature is mobile smart alerts, which send notifications to your smartphone every time your lock is used. This way, you can stay aware of the security status of your home in real-time, even when you're not physically present.

However, it's important to remember that no security measure is infallible. Despite their advanced features, smart locks can still be susceptible to traditional lock picking techniques as most have a keyway for manual operation. Yet, the added layer of security provided by their smart features generally outweighs this potential vulnerability.

Currently, the best smart lock on the market is the Ultraloq U-Bolt Wifi Pro. This thing is a commercial-grade beast and ingeniously hides your backup keyway behind a faceplate. You can't pick a lock that you don't know exists! Alternatively, there are a few other solid choices out there in 2023. Check out our guide on the best smart door locks— updated for 2023.

Video Doorbells

Video doorbells are devices that offer a hybrid functionality of a doorbell and a security camera. These devices, typically equipped with motion detection, infrared night vision, and two-way audio communication, enhance your home security by enabling you to visually monitor your doorway and interact with visitors without physically answering the door.

Incorporating a video doorbell into your home security strategy can significantly deter potential criminals. When a burglar notices a camera aimed at them, they are likely to reconsider their actions and leave your property, preferring to avoid the risk of having their face captured on camera. The presence of a video doorbell alone acts as a powerful visual deterrent, sending a clear message to potential intruders: this home is protected.

Another standout advantage of video doorbells is the enhanced awareness they provide. With these devices, you no longer need to open the door to strangers or unexpected guests. Through the live video feed and two-way audio, you can verify the identity of the visitor and communicate directly, keeping potential threats on the other side of a closed and locked door.

While Ring may have been a pioneer in the video doorbell industry, other brands have since joined the fray, bringing more advanced technology, better privacy, and providing a wide range of alternatives to monthly subscription services. You can find a curated list of the best video doorbells with no monthly fees in our comprehensive guide.

Coupling a video doorbell with a smart lock creates an incredibly robust home security system.

Door Reinforcement Lock or Jammer

buddybar door jammer in use

Door Reinforcement Lock is an additional layer of security that you can consider for your home. These devices, also known as internal door jammers, work by preventing the door from being opened, even when it's unlocked. This provides an impressive pick-proofing feature, as even a successful lock-picking effort won't result in a door being opened.

One of the major advantages of these locks is their cost-effectiveness. They are not only affordable but also simple to install, offering a high level of security without straining your budget or requiring technical expertise. Moreover, their sleek and unobtrusive design ensures that they blend seamlessly with your door without compromising the aesthetic appeal of your entrance.

I install these on every single one of my doors and sleep like a baby as a result.

Among the various night latches on the market, my preferred choice is the Defender Security Reinforcement Lock. Its robust build quality, economical price point, variety of finishes, and ability to withstand up to 800 pounds of force make it a standout choice.

If you're renting an apartment or otherwise unable to install additional security hardware on your door, a sturdy alternative is the Buddy Bar. This device, designed as a door jammer, fits under your doorknob, directing any force exerted on the door into the ground. It's also a perfect travel companion for securing hotel rooms or any other temporary accommodation.

While the market does offer other door jammer bars, many are made from materials like plastic or weak metal that may fold under force. The Buddy Bar, however, is a solid piece of metal engineered to withstand up to 2,560 lbs of force and protect against lock bumping. When it comes to security, quality should never be compromised.

Note: A crucial point to remember is that reinforcement locks and door jammers can only be activated from inside the house. Despite this, their benefits greatly outweigh this minor inconvenience, making them a worthwhile addition to your home security arsenal.

Security Cameras & Security Systems

The real-time surveillance provided by security cameras can significantly increase your sense of safety, offering you the ability to monitor your property regardless of your location. Also, the presence of cameras often acts as a powerful deterrent, discouraging potential burglars who prefer to avoid documented evidence of their activities.

Security cameras come in a variety of forms, with different models offering unique features tailored to your specific needs. From outdoor cameras with night vision and motion detection to indoor cameras equipped with two-way audio, there's a security camera for every scenario.

In addition to individual cameras, comprehensive security systems are available, which offer a more holistic approach to home security. These systems typically include a combination of cameras, motion detectors, window and door sensors, and a central hub that manages these devices. More advanced systems might also feature smart home integration, allowing you to control your security measures from a smartphone app or a centralized control panel.

One such system I personally recommend is the Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera. This wireless security camera comes with color night vision, a built-in spotlight, 2K video, and a 160-degree viewing angle. It's a versatile solution that not only records detailed video evidence but also helps deter criminals with its bright spotlight.

If you're on a budget, the Wyze Cam v3 offers a remarkable set of features for its price point, including color night vision, weatherproofing, and compatibility with a wide range of smart home systems.

For a more integrated security system, the SimpliSafe 8 Piece Wireless Home Security System is a top contender. It includes a base station, a keypad, four entry sensors, a motion sensor, and a panic button. This comprehensive package covers all the basic elements of home security and is easy to install without professional help.

However, as with all security measures, it's important to remember that cameras and security systems are parts of a larger whole. They are most effective when used as part of a multi-layered approach to security, including strong locks, effective lighting, and vigilant neighborhood watch programs.

Barking Dog Alarm

barking dog alarm robot dog

The sound of a barking dog has long been associated with an effective deterrent for potential intruders. It signals the presence of a living, reactive guard on the property, potentially increasing the risk of detection for a would-be burglar. However, not everyone has the luxury or desire to own a dog. Enter the Barking Dog Alarm - a clever security solution that capitalizes on this deterrent effect.

A Barking Dog Alarm is a device that emits the sound of a barking dog when it senses movement within a designated area. Essentially, it combines the technology of a motion sensor with a loudspeaker. This type of alarm is generally used as a primary layer of home security, ideally placed near entry points to maximize its effectiveness.

What sets these alarms apart is their unique deterrent nature. Unlike a standard siren, the sound of a barking dog suggests active defense. It signals to potential intruders that not only is the property protected, but that the inhabitants, or their pets, might be alerted to their presence, increasing the risk and unpredictability of their illicit venture.

If you're interested in learning more about these awesome devices, check out my guide on the best Barking Dog Alarms.

Additional Ways to Strengthen Home Security

The key to home security isn't just about locks and surveillance systems; it's about creating a comprehensive strategy that covers all potential vulnerabilities. Here are some additional tips that you can use to make your home safer:

  1. Proper Outdoor Lighting: This acts as a deterrent by making your home less attractive to potential burglars. Consider using motion-activated lights around entrances and other vulnerable areas. Burglars prefer to work in the dark, so illuminating your property reduces its appeal.
  2. Secure Windows: Windows are a common entry point for burglars. Ensure your windows have strong, working locks. Reinforce them with security film or install window security bars for an added layer of protection.
  3. Secure Garage: Garages often provide easy access to homes, so don't neglect to secure them. Always keep garage doors locked, and secure any internal doors leading from the garage to the main house.
  4. Routine Maintenance: Regularly check all your security measures, locks, alarms, and other devices to ensure they are working correctly. Broken or ineffective security measures are just as good as having none.
  5. Keep Expensive Items Away from Windows and Out of Sight: High-value items on display can make your home a tempting target for burglars. Consider drawing blinds when you're out, and avoid leaving items like electronics, jewelry, or high-end appliances in view.
  6. Visible Security Measures: A visible security presence can be an effective deterrent. This might include security signage, a visible alarm system, or CCTV cameras (even if they're dummy cameras!). The aim is to send a clear message to potential intruders that your home is not an easy target.
  7. Get to Know Your Neighbors: A vigilant community is one of the most effective crime deterrents. Close-knit neighbors are more likely to look out for each other, and unfamiliar faces or suspicious activity are more likely to be noticed and reported.

These additional steps, along with the previously mentioned measures, can provide a strong layered defense against lock pickers and other potential intruders. Remember, the goal is to make your home a difficult target and to increase the risk for any would-be burglar considering your property.

Final Thoughts

To wrap up this comprehensive guide, remember that a multi-layered approach to home security is the most effective way to protect your home from lock picking and other potential threats. Upgrading your locks, investing in smart home technology, and creating an environment less appealing to burglars are all crucial steps in this process.

There's no such thing as a perfectly secure home, but by addressing each potential vulnerability, you can create a robust defensive strategy that significantly deters potential intruders and protects your home. Whether you're investing in a top-of-the-line smart lock, strengthening your doors, or just remembering to lock up every time you leave the house, every step you take towards better home security matters.

Remember, the goal is not to make your home impervious to break-ins but to make it a less desirable target. A home that looks challenging to break into is far less likely to be chosen by burglars.

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