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Cat And Mouse Burglars
Published by Admin - #PPMLOCKSMITHS in Locksmiths in Cardiff • 28/05/2014 17:04:13
CAT AND MOUSE BURGLARS

In recent weeks at the shop, we have had our usual round of visitors seeking specialist advice on locks and home security. However, a couple of our customers have commented that, if we weren’t such honest individuals, we would make rather good burglars. There is a well-known saying – ‘It takes a thief to catch a thief’. I can’t really disagree with this observation, because what these remarks imply is that, as security professionals, we are in possession of a great deal of inside knowledge. Anyone who has ever called us to help them when they have been locked out knows how quick and efficient our 24-hour emergency locksmiths are. So, such comments should be regarded as compliments, recognising decades of collective experience.

Of course, as master locksmiths in a position of public trust, we must be scrupulously honest, so all of our staff are thoroughly vetted before they begin their training, and their conduct is carefully screened by seniors and peers. Any breach of this trust would not be tolerated. From the most senior staff to the junior trainees we all have to be ‘squeaky clean’.

Nonetheless, an essential part of staff training involves surveying a property from the point of view of a burglar. Our qualified locksmiths have to ask themselves “how would I get into this property?” Being honest, guileless individuals, trainees learning how to overcome all the different types of locks in service of a customer locked out of their home or workplace will be taught to consider the most effective way to gain entry. However, until they gain experience they will routinely overlook the fact that there is another equally important question to consider if they are to understand crime prevention – “if I were a burglar who had just got in here, how would I get OUT of this property?”

As a younger man nearly forty years ago, I lived in a rented bedsit with a kitchen shared between six other tenants. Despite having my own cupboard set aside for tins and boxes, and labelling milk cartons in the fridge, one of the other residents was helping themselves to my food while I was out shopping or in work. As a result of this constant pilfering, rather than accuse everyone and risk offending the innocent parties, I kept most of the less perishable items in my room.

Living in a huge Victorian stone-built house, this proved to be a mistake. There were mice in the house, and it wasn’t long before one of them crept into my room and started to help itself to my cereals, gnawing through the cardboard and leaving droppings as a calling card.

Something had to be done to stop it, but pets were not allowed by the landlord, so a cat was out of the question. I dislike the traditional, sprung mousetraps, so I decided that, if I could work out a way to capture this mouse alive, I could take it to some waste ground and let it out. This is where my intention to be kind to my fellow creatures fell flat.

In the days before humane mousetraps were available in the shops, the only way to catch a mouse alive was to assemble a DIY device. My initial sketches were reminiscent of a Heath Robinson contraption – strings, pulleys, levers, wheels, cotton reels and elastic bands. Once I had come up with a viable, practical idea – a device I could actually make, I set it up and waited. After a few days of laying cereal and raisins as bait, which failed to tempt my unwanted visitor, I realised it could only be for one simple reason.

Mice are naturally cautious – if there’s food out in the open, they’ll timidly cross the floor to get to it, ever mindful of any threat. If getting to food involves entering an enclosed space that they can’t easily escape, they will weigh their chances carefully, and if there’s an easier target elsewhere they won’t take the bait - they’ll avoid the trap.

Strangely, that is very much how the average burglar thinks. If a thief is aiming to break into someone’s house, he would need to be confident of making his escape, and not getting cornered. Ideally, he does not want to be seen, and certainly doesn’t want to be identified. It takes an extremely bold thief to risk discovery, confrontation and possible capture and, just like the mouse, he would rather leave without the payoff than risk being trapped.

The first-time thief is much more likely to behave like the mouse – heart pounding, mouth dry, eyes wide open, alert for every sound, and poised to make a run for it in a heartbeat if anything disturbs him. If he gets away with it once, he will continue, greatly emboldened, and really start to enjoy the thrill of it – the rush of adrenaline, and the feeling of power that he gets from having taken someone else’s belongings, rendering them powerless.

Every successful theft boosts this distorted pride in his prowess. He sees himself as a winner in the game of life because the excitement and the joy he experiences overwhelms any empathy he might once have felt with his victims. The once timid mouse now acts more like a cat, skulking in the shadows, ready to pounce, lithe and agile, alert yet cruelly detached from the consequences of their actions.
So, how do you stop an intruder who is addicted to the thrill – one who sees himself as a skilled and stealthy predator who can force his way through a locked door, become invisible, and evade capture? For a thief with this mindset, the only way to stop them is to first make the house as impenetrable as possible and secondly, but just as importantly, make the whole house feel like a trap.

Very often, we receive requests for extra security on certain doors, while windows and other doors remain woefully insecure. Making the front door particularly difficult to break through does not protect the rest of the house any better overall. The thief will find the route of least resistance, and will often consider a number of options before he makes his decision. If possible, he will work out his possible escape routes before he commits to one point of entry. The security of the house is only effective when every door and window is treated as part of an integrated whole.

Modern uPVC double-glazed windows are now usually well manufactured, and capable of resisting a forced entry. But this does not mean that they don’t have to be locked. The act of locking these windows reduces the escape options for an intruder. By the same token, leaving the keys in the door or window locks means that the locks are redundant. We advise all our customers to lock all external openings and keep the keys out of sight.

The essential point is that, if an intruder finds a way to get in through one door, or through one window, you block his choice of escape any other way. Whenever he is able to escape by several different routes he is much less likely to feel trapped.
To view it in the simplest terms, any house is a big box with several compartments we call rooms.

Occupants have access to this big box through openings called doors, and can let light or air in through openings called windows, although most of the windows near the ground can also be treated as doors by anyone agile enough. We can stop anyone who isn’t supposed to enter this big box by using particular types of key-operated locking devices to secure the openings. In theory, this means that only those with keys can go in and out of the house.

When confronted with a well-secured house, if an intruder manages to overcome one of the locks and let himself in, he will be entering a trap, with only one way out, unless he manages to overcome another lock to make his escape. If there are keys to the other locks readily available for him to use, the house is no longer a trap. Walking into a securely locked house is similar, from a psychological viewpoint, to the Stone Age man walking into a cave. There are paw prints, and a few chewed bones, so there might be a bear inside, but if there is no bear inside, there’s every chance that the bear could return while our caveman is in the cave, and he would be trapped.

If an intruder has to squeeze through a window to get in, then having to squeeze back through the same window to get out makes it more difficult for him to carry away your possessions. Your widescreen TV may be safe, and if anything else of value is securely locked in a safe, he’ll end up with a few teaspoons from the cutlery drawer and little else.

But if you leave a key in the back door, he can use that door to make off with your laptop, games console and antique gold carriage clock. Turn your property into a trap by removing keys from the inside of the locks. However, in case of a fire, you should always have sets of keys tucked away where the family can grab them, to make an emergency escape possible for the rightful occupants.

In ideal circumstances, a house should have all potential entry points – doors and windows - secured by strong, durable locks, with all the keys carried by the occupants, or concealed in a place every family member knows about. Such locks are obstacles in the way of someone who wants to force their way into your private space and take your belongings. But if they do manage to breach this first line of defence, it does not mean that they have succeeded.

They have to get away with it, so by making an intruder’s escape as difficult as possible, you are making them feel that they are entering a trap. Such a feeling can often turn an adrenaline-fuelled burglar back into a mouse, and once they get rattled, there’s more chance of them leaving empty-handed.

In the last few years of economic recession, consumers in the United Kingdom have been careful with their money. World prices of raw materials have increased, but the DIY market has been flooded with cheaper goods, including locks. However, if the prices of raw materials have increased, how can the prices of certain locks actually decrease in relative terms?

Many manufacturers stopped using high-grade steel and brass cases and components, and began to use much cheaper alloys, throwing all sorts of scrap metals into the mix. Even though they cut their profit margins, the locks fail more readily than a decent lock, so in the long term, they increase their sales.

Many customers are shocked by the realisation that they are not as secure as they thought. There is no point saving money if you don’t get what you want, and many people are unaware that their locks are woefully insecure. The trouble is that a lot of thieves know which locks to target. The majority of cheap locks would fail a professional’s test for strength, reliability and durability and so, rather than save money by buying cheaply, it costs more in the longer term.

At PPM Locksmiths, we have a wealth of experience in offering the right locks for the right situation, serving customer needs with products that have been tested to perform to expectations. We offer a mobile service throughout South Wales, and if you book a PPM Locksmiths trained engineer to attend your property we will be happy to advise on security improvements. We don’t just offer quality locks and a fitting service – as a company we also offer the benefit of many years’ experience in making houses as secure as possible.


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PPM Locksmiths Ltd 7 Dominions Arcade Queen Street Cardiff - Phone 029-20231717