How To Decrease The Odds of Having Your Car Stolen (and how to get it back if it is stolen)

The first and foremost thing to remember is that one should utilize their existing hardware, and look for optimum conditions for parking their car. In other words, ALWAYS lock your doors,  ALWAYS roll up your windows, and always try your best to park in a secure, well lit, and preferably busy area. The efforts you take to prevent car theft from taking place will reap massive returns in overall prevention itself. Thieves are opportunists: If an opportunity does not exist, or requires just a little too much effort to “make the opportunity unfold”, so to speak, then this exponentially decreases chances of vehicle theft. There are too many cars out there, parked in remote areas, with their doors unlocked and keys in the ignition, just begging to be stolen. So simply don’t include your vehicle in that group.

You should always consider supplementing your basic safety efforts, though:

  1. Consider a subscription to a service like On-Star or BMW Assist if your manufacturer offers one. Many of these services have Stolen Vehicle Location and Recovery Assistance and can remotely track and locate your vehicle while communicating with police to help aid in recovery.Get Lojack if your area has Lojack coverage. Lojack is only sold in areas where the police are equipped with Lojack scanners, and does not require a monthly or yearly fee. Chances are if you can buy Lojack in your area, you have coverage. Lojack is a vehicle tracking system that allows police to directly track a stolen vehicle from their police cruisers. This is done directly by the police, without the need of a 3rd party like On-Star to tell them the location.
  2. Get a car security or alarm system with 2 way paging remotes that will notify your remote of your vehicles condition. If the alarm is triggered your remote will alert you of the alarm. Also ECarSecurity offers the Vision Guard 8000 which actually takes a picture from inside the car during the alarm triggering. This picture will quickly be sent to your remote and can help identify a thief.
  3. Consider a 3rd party GPS or GPS/Cellular based tracking system. Most of these have a monthly fee, and will allow to see the location of the vehicle through the companies tracking site or other means. This allows you or them to communicate with the police the location of the stolen vehicle, and some allow you to see the location from your computer as well. This is similar to many fleet-monitoring systems.

  4. Report the theft to police as soon as you find out. The longer a thief has with the car, the longer the thief has to find, remove and disable any OEM or aftermarket tracking system.

  5. Consider going to a watchdog website.

  6. Make sure to etch your VIN in your window. If you have nice aftermarket wheels, stereo equipment, or any other parts you worry about, consider etching your VIN number somewhere inconspicuous (like on the backside or inside lip) of these too. It can make it easier to recover your vehicle and parts. You can ask the dealership for a place that does this.


  • On-Star, BMW Assist and other similar manufacturer assistance systems offer many different plans. When purchasing a car, be sure to check if your manufacturer offers such services for their vehicles. To be sure you can effectively use these systems to help attempt recovery of a stolen vehicle, make sure to select a plan that features some sort of Stolen Vehicle Recovery. Most of the monthly or yearly plans will include this, but it never hurts to be sure before you sign up.
  • Lojack offers an “early Warning system” as well. Consider paying extra for this. This helps inform you quicker of the theft of your vehicle. Through the extra technology, you will be contacted by your chosen method (cell, email, text message, phone call, etc.) the moment the thief drives your car away. This allows you to contact the authorities sooner, increasing chances of recovery.
  • Some 3rd party GPS tracking systems offer different features than others. Some offer a system with early warning as well. Some can be combined with regular alarm systems to aid in prevention as well as recovery. Understand the way it is set up, and available options and systems thoroughly before purchasing a system, to make sure it’s the right one for you. Remember to pay the monthly fee, your expensive GPS tracking system that requires a monthly fee for the monitoring. Like a cell phone, it won’t be effective if you don’t have a service provider. There are many more types available.
  • Get a car alarm with 2 way paging remotes for further protection over your vehicle. You can also opt to get a system like the Vision Guard 8000 which will actually take pictures and send it to your remote!
  • alerts are sent out to people in your area through email and SMS to cell phones. These people will look for your car and call the cops to pick up your ride.
  • Make sure to etch your VIN in your window. Makes it easier to recover your vehicle.


  • Be careful about etching your car’s VIN number on your window if your car is an older Honda because it easier to steal your car if the thief knows the VIN number.

  Sources and Citations

Mechanics and Clever Variations

Pin tumbler locks are the most common locks in the world. Generally speaking, this is the type of lock almost all homes, businesses, and other venues implement. Motor vehicles, however, do no utilize pin tumbler locks.

Pin tumbler locks have lower pins, and top pins. The top pins are in a row, from back to front, and have springs behind them, pushing them down.  These top pins are all of the same length. Lower pins are in the “plug” of the lock. The plug is the part of the lock with the key hole; it is where you insert your key. If you look into a plug, you will probably see one or more of the lower pins suspended from the top of the plug. These lower pins are of different lengths, and the end that comes in contact with the key is usually tapered in some manner.

When you insert your key, the key pushes the lower pins upward. If it is the correct key, the lower pins will be pushed to the top of the plug, but the pins will not extend up into the upper pin chambers. The upper pins will be pushed up by the lower pins so that they are in the their chambers, and they will no longer extend into the lower plug. The lower pins and the upper pins will be butting up against each other, in a perfect line. In this condition, called a shear line, the plug can be turned (the lock can be locked or unlocked). An incorrect key would cause one or more of the upper or lower pins to extend into the opposing pin’s chamber; the plug cannot be turned.

When picking a lock, the objective is to get all of the upper pins up into their chambers while simultaneously allowing the lower pins to remain in their lower chambers WHILE also applying a slight amount of turning pressure to the plug. This picks the lock, creating an artificial condition where the plug can be turned.

Some locks have special top pins that make it difficult to create this artificial condition. These types of top pins are common in European locks, as well as in many North American pin tumbler locks. Moreover, these types of pins can be added to any pin tumbler lock, making them more difficult to pick.

As lock picking is not a common skill, spool pins are not a popular addition to a lock, and are arguably unnecessary in most instances. Most high security locks, however, have spool pins or some variation of these pins.

Oftentimes a lock is “set up” in such a manner as a long lower pin is next to a short one. This makes the creation of previously mentioned “artificial condition” created by successful picking somewhat difficult to achieve. If a long pin has short pins on either side of it, or two long pins have a short pin separating them, this makes picking even more difficult. If spool pins are added to such an arrangement, picking the lock becomes very difficult.

To ascertain how difficult (or easy) it is to pick your own lock, look at your key. The various cuts in the key indicate the length of the lower pins in the lock. Short cuts next to long cuts indicate that picking would be more difficult, while a series of short cuts may indicate that picking is not that difficult.

Of course, the above assessment does not take into account the skill of the person picking the lock. Good locksmiths usually enjoy the challenge of picking a lock, irrespective of the level of difficulty.

Practical Tips To Secure Your Home

by Wayne McGruff


It’s no secret that crime is increasing every year and is invading what once were considered “safe communities.” As the following FBI report shows, crime is on the rise. Crime against property occurs on the average of 20 times a minute with an estimated $1,000 loss for each occurrence. Burglary is a crime of opportunity where entry is gained due to the carelessness of homeowners.

Single family homes are twice as likely to be burglarized than apartments. While receiving a lot of publicity when it happens, hotels and motels account for less than 3% of all burglaries. The most likely things to be stolen in a burglary are cash, small electronic equipment, home computers, cameras, jewelry, furs, tools and hand guns.

Few people really bother about security until something happens to them or a neighbor. The public’s complacent attitude is the burglar’s best friend and your worst enemy. There are many things the average person can do to make their home less of a target. This report will get you started on the right road. Remember, the two things a burglar fears most are being seen and having to take too much time to complete the crime.

While burglars typically “target” a home when no one is home, if you surprise one in the act, your chances of being injured are too high to attempt to intervene. A sobering statistic shows many homeowners attempting to defend (themselves, family members, or their property) with a weapon end up having it turned on themselves.

Vital statistics on Crime in the United States,
Reported Offenses 1985-1991
Source: Uniform Crime Reports FBI

1985 1,328,870 11,102,600 18,980 87,670
1986 1,489,170 11,722,700 20,610 91,460
1987 1,484,000 12,024,700 20,100 91,110
1988 1,566,220 12,356,900 20,680 92,490
1989 1,646,040 12,605,400 21,500 94,500
1990 1,820,130 12,655,500 23,440 102,560
1991 1,911,770 12,961,100 24,700 106,590

1985 497,870 3,073,300 6,926,400 1986 542,780 3,241,400 7,257,200
1987 517,700 3,236,200 7,499,900
1988 542,970 3,218,100 7,705,900
1989 578,330 3,168,200 7,872,400
1990 639,270 3,073,900 7,945,700
1991 687,730 3,157,200 8,142,200






Many local law enforcement agencies will provide a free “walk through” of your property. The purpose is to identify all potential trouble spots and determine what steps can be implemented to improve the overall security of your property. You can probably organize a “block party” and have the police “sweep” your entire block. Because of cost-cutting many local law enforcement agencies are stretched to the limit and there may be a long waiting list. Sometimes off-duty police officers will do this kind of work for a nominal fee. A few words of caution are in order if you have some third party security company do a survey for you. Many of course will do a free survey to get their foot in your door and try and sell you their security devices. So be forewarned that a locksmith will probably try and sell you better locks, a alarm company a security system and so on. So use common sense.

High Quality Locksmith is one of the few locksmith companies in Tallahassee that conducts professional security surveys.  No, they won’t try to sell you locks, but they will make important recommendations and give you a thorough written report regarding their findings.


One thing every homeowner should do at least twice a year is take a walk around and through your property with a close friend or neighbor who is not too familiar with your house. Start outside and ask yourself “how would I best break in? The purpose of not doing it alone is your pal may spot things you’ll overlook. Return the favor and complete a survey for your friend.

Besides the obvious “lived-in” look, don’t get into a habit of only doing certain things only when you’re not home. Chances are good you can tell when your neighbor isn’t home. Remember it’s a burglar’s job to know the same things. Most professional criminals can tell nobody’s home at least four or five houses away.

Several dead giveaways are always closing the drapes ONLY when you’re not home. Having no garbage cans out collection day, or an empty can sitting at the curb, are tip-offs you’re not home. So are closing up the house as tight as a drum in the hot summer months without the air-conditioner running. Turning on a certain light or two and every other room is in total darkness. Ditto for picking up all the kid’s toys, taking in the dog, shutting the garage door if you frequently leave it open, and turning off the lawn sprinkler.

Many people before leaving turn on the “burglar light, ” the light over the kitchen sink. You might as well hang a sign on the front door you’re not home! If you use an answering machine never leave a message that you’re not home. Instead say you can’t come to the phone right now. If you don’t have a machine, turn down the volume on phones before leaving so it can’t be heard from outside – another dead giveaway nobody’s home.


You’ve probably head it several times and it’s true! A dog is one of the best deterrents. Not because it’s vicious, it need not even be seen, but it has to be heard. A dog with a menacing bark will scare away a lot of would-be burglars, not only because they don’t know what kind of dog you have and what risk it would be to them if try tried to break in, but more likely because a noisy dog will create a disturbance and get attention – the last thing a burglar wants!

If you don’t have a dog there’s nothing stopping you from pretending. A Beware of Dog sign on your fence, a dog house in the back yard, even a loose dog chain or bowl can drive away a potential burglar. Don’t be fooled by companies that provide cheap electronic “dogs” who bark none stop if a intruder trips a relay or otherwise signals his presence. Most experienced prowlers are familiar with these devices and won’t be fooled or scared off.

Electronic devices that are effective besides the typical whole house alarm systems for windows and doors are infrared or motion detectors that sense movement or the heat given off by one’s body. Anyone approaching too close will trigger any number of attached devices. The most effective are powerful lights or burglar horns that either flood the area with light or fill the air with a deafening sound without notice. Just like a barking dog, the would-be burglar will usually hightail it out of there for fear of being discovered.

To be effective, the sensitivity of such devices much not be set too high or stray animals will set them off too frequently which will get you on the wrong side of your neighbors. Also be sure such devices are high enough that they can’t be easily turned off or broken.


Illegal entry through the front door occurs more often than all other points of entry combined! All exterior doors should be of solid hard wood or steel reinforced. A good door does no good if the door frame is in bad shape or of inferior construction. Pay special attention to the door jams. Most, even in expensive homes are made out of cheap pine. It don’t take much force to “kick in” the door even if protected with dead bolts, if the strike plate is attached with only a couple of 1/2 or 3/4 inch screws.

Take a few minutes and install 2-1/2 to 3 inch stainless steel or nickel plated screws in all your exterior door jams. Be sure screws go at least 1-3/4 inch deep into the underlying framing lumber. While you at it, consider getting heavy duty strike plates or a door reinforcement kit sold in many larger home improvement centers. Be advised you may have to chisel out more of the door jam to install but it’s worth the effort for the greater protection provided. Another way to increase the chances of your door holding is to further protect it from being kicked in by installing a device on the floor that the door rests against on inside center when shut, and swings away when the door opens.

Any kind of sliding glass door is a favorite target. Guard against the door being lifted up and out by installing several screws into the door’s upper track. Open and shut the door through its entire range to allow just enough of the screw’s head protruding to allow free movement without allowing the door to be removed. Several devices can be installed into the door’s upper or lower track that acts much like a dead bold by running a heavy pin through the door track and deep into the frame. Just having a length of old broom handle at a 45 degree angle in the door track also prevents the door from easily being forced open and works nearly as well!

You garage door is easy pickings unless you have a electronic door opener. Today these devices are fairly cheap (around $150) and make it practically impossible to force open the overhead door from the outside without breaking through the actual door panels due to the high tension produced from the worm drive or chain device that makes the openers work Yes, it is possible for burglar to punch in the right code and gain access, but with today’s remote controls providing so many possible combinations, the odds are very slight, and the burglar won’t waste the time trying all the possibilities.

Final bit of advice on automatic door openers. Do be sure to change the security code from the preinstalled settings which are almost always set to zeros. Also, if you notice your door open and you’re sure you shut it, one of your neighbors probably set his opener to the same code. Take the time to change your setting, or you’re giving a potential burglar a great opportunity to gain free access.


Burglars break windows as a last resort – or by accident. The preferred method is cutting a access hole or slipping in a thin stiff wire and undoing the locking device. Most double hung windows have cheap locks which should be replaced by heavy duty sash locks or even keyed locks, if you can put up with the inconvenience. An old trick is installing a small eyebolt in either corner. If done correctly the window can’t be opened, with the eyebolt in place from the outside. Of course you could screw the window shut by drilling a hole through the frame but it defeats the purpose of having a window, and presents a fire hazard. Not recommended.

The safest windows are glass block. Almost impossible to break through, they of course can’t be opened and are not as pleasing to look at. A good choice for basements or areas at or near ground level.

Another good protection is installed roll-a-way electric security shutters, or decorative security grates. The main down side is they can prove to be a serious fire hazard and prevent your escape. Newer models install on tracks or can easily be pushed open from inside to lessen their danger in the event of fire and the thick smoke sure to accompany it.


The above steps can go a long way to protecting your home but no matter how secure your residence is, if a professional burglar has targeted your home and is determined to break in, the unthinkable may still happen. To aid law enforcement agencies and greatly assist in insurance claims you should maintain a detailed household inventory of all your valuables.

It makes sense to “mark” important items with some permanent identifying mark. There are a variety of simple tools you can rent that will engrave serial numbers, a driver’s license number or some other unique marking into your valuables.

Remember most burglars “fence” stolen items in order to get cash, usually for illegal drugs. You’ll greatly reduce the chances of someone walking off with your TV, VCR or other valuables if it has a conspicuous ID number that can’t be removed, simply because it will greatly reduce its street value and make it too much work to get rid of, and of course it is a lot easier to trace and return the property to the rightful owner.

Today, many people have a video camera. Sweep each room and record the contents from several different prospectives. Next, take close-ups of really important items. To tie-in, have a family member pose with the valuables. In a clear voice identify each item, the date of purchase, price paid and model and serial numbers. Remember to update the tape every time you purchase something new.

If you don’t have a video camera, a regular camera also works well. Make a companion audio tape to go along with it. It very important that the tapes or pictures be kept off the property or they may be stolen or damaged. Keep them in a safety deposit box. Now set aside a hour or so and complete the security check list on the following page. Correct weak points as soon as possible and your home and belongings will be more secure.



  1. Have you arranged to have member of a law enforcement agency do a professional survey?
  2. Are all trees and shrubs pruned and well maintained to prevent anyone from hiding unseen?
  3. Do any trees, down pipes, lattice work provide easy access to upper floors?
  4. If you have skylights can they be removed from the outside or easily broken?
  5. Any ladders, tools kept outside to assist any potential intruder?
  6. Are you guilty of keeping a hidden house key outside the house where it’s sure to be found?
  7. Is your home well lighted with particular attention to exterior doors?
  8. Can your main entrance be seen from the street?
  9. Are exterior doors at least 1-3/4 inch thick and made from solid wood or reinforced with metal?
  10. Do all exterior doors have heavy duty dead bolts and reinforced door jams?
  11. Can anyone gain easy access through a mail slot, dryer vent, or pet entrance?
  12. If doors have glass panels can someone break through and defeat the locking mechanism?
  13. Have all sliding glass doors been protected from being easily lifted out from their frames?
  14. Are all exterior lights and security devices in good working order and protected from breakage?
  15. Does the door from the attached garage leading to the house have a dead bolt?
  16. Does your overhead door have a working electronic door opener?
  17. Does your overhead door have any loose, broken or missing door panels or hardware?
  18. Do you keep the overhead doors closed, and your car locked inside the garage?
  19. Do all windows have reinforced locking devices that can be secured in the open position?
  20. Do all screens and storm windows have reinforced locks?
  21. Do ground level windows have guards or grates?
  22. Are basement windows glass block or protected by grates or security devices?
  23. All irreplaceable items kept in high quality fire resistant safe or in off-site safety deposit box?
  24. Do you have a complete and current video tape or pictures of all your valuables off-site?
  25. Are all firearms kept secured and apart from ammunition?


  1. Is your heating system in proper working order and inspected for dangerous leaks yearly?
  2. Is there ample air circulation around appliances that are likely to overheat?
  3. Any overloaded circuits, long extension cords runs, too many devices plugged unto one outlet?
  4. Fireplaces, chimney free of dangerous build ups that could catch on fire?
  5. Protective grate in front of fireplace to prevent sparks, hot logs from rolling into room?
  6. Kitchen oven hood and far clear of greasy build-up that could cause a fire?
  7. Smoke detectors installed on each level and tested weekly?
  8. Smoke detector batteries replaced every 12 months or less?
  9. Working fire extinguisher in kitchen, basement, garage, auto?
  10. All family members sleep with bedroom door closed to prevent spread of fire, smoke?
  11. All family members practice fire drill, know escape route, designated meeting pace to go outside?
  12. Children know how to use phone to get help in an emergency?


  1. Security system armed? Automatic timers for lights, radio turned on? Phones turned down?
  2. Arrange for neighbor to watch house, cut, water grass, give house that lived-in look?
  3. No change in normal pattern of opening, shutting drapes, dead give-away lighting patterns?
  4. Arrange to stop mail, newspaper delivery, yard work performed?
  5. Arrange to have local police give “special attention” for area beat car.


Comments? Questions? Email Here

© 2012

Locksmithing: A brief synopsis

Locksmithing began as the science and art of making and defeating locks. A lock is a mechanism that secures buildings, rooms, cabinets, objects, or other storage facilities. A key is often used to open a lock. Means of opening a lock may include a security token or two-factor authentication for greater security, such as requiring both something a person knows (a combination) and something they have (a key or keycard).

The oldest known lock is approximately 4,000 years old and was of Egyptian make.The earliest known key-based lock was built during the Assyrian Empire in Khorsabadnear Nineveh about 704 BC. It may have been found in the ruins of the  Emporer Sargon II’s palace in Khorsabad. It used the same pin tumbler principle employed by many modern locks.


A “smith” of any type is one who shapes metal pieces, often using a forge or mould, into useful objects or to be part of a more complex structure. Locksmithing, as its name implies, is the assembly and designing of locks and their respective keys.


Locksmith, 1451

Historically, locksmiths actually made the entire lock, working for hours hand cutting screws and doing much file-work. Today, the rise of cheap mass production means that this is no longer true, and, though a few expert locksmiths are also engineers and capable of sophisticated repairs and renovation work, the vast majority of locks are repaired by swapping of parts or like-for-like replacement, or upgraded to modern mass-production items. Until more recently, safes and strongboxes were the exception to this, and to this day large vaults are custom designed and built at great cost, as the cost of this is lower than the very limited scope for mass production would allow, and the risk of a copy being obtained and defeated as practice is removed.

Although fitting of keys to replace lost keys to automobiles and homes and the changing of keys for homes and businesses to maintain security are still an important part of locksmithing, locksmiths today are primarily involved in the installation of higher quality lock-sets and the design, implementation and management of keying and key control systems. Most locksmiths also do electronic lock servicing, such as making keys for transponder-equipped vehicles and the implementation and application of access control systems protecting individuals and assets for many large institutions.

In terms of physical security, a locksmith’s work frequently involves making a determination of the level of risk to an individual or institution and then recommending and implementing appropriate combinations of equipment and policies to create “security layers” which exceed the reasonable gain to an intruder or attacker. The more different security layers are implemented, the more the requirement for additional skills and knowledge and tools to defeat them all. But because each layer comes at an expense to the customer, the application of appropriate levels without exceeding reasonable costs to the customer is often very important and requires a skilled and knowledgeable locksmith to determine.


Locksmiths may be commercial (working out of a storefront), mobile (working out of a vehicle), institutional (employed by an institution) or investigational (forensic locksmiths) or may specialize in one aspect of the skill, such as an automotive lock specialist, a master key system specialist or a safe technician. Many are also security consultants, but not every security consultant has the skills and knowledge of a locksmith. Locksmiths are frequently certified in specific skill areas or to a level of skill within the trade. This is separate from certificates of completion of training courses. In determining skill levels, certifications from manufacturers or locksmith associations are usually more valid criteria than certificates of completion. Some locksmiths decide to call themselves “Master Locksmiths” whether they are fully trained or not, and some training certificates appear quite authoritative.

The majority of locksmiths also work on any existing door hardware, not just locking mechanisms. This includes door closers, door hinges, electric strikes, frame repairs and other door hardware.


In the general case, a lock will not keep out an absolutely determined intruder with unlimited resources, skills, knowledge and time. However, even a minimal lock can delay a typical intruder for a time, and the disturbance generated in circumventing a high-quality lock, for example by breaking windows or doors, can deter many attackers, causing them to direct their attacks against weaker targets.

When combined with secure containers, or document destruction systems, or electronic access or alarm systems, locks can provide much higher levels of security. Some locksmiths possess these skills, and others form business relationships with companies or individuals with these specialties.