Burglary is the fastest growing crime in the United States. Assaults and murders get the headlines, but burglaries get your money -- lots of it.
People are often ill-prepared for a burglary attack on their homes. They cannot afford to have valuable TV sets, silverware, cameras and the like stolen, and, even worse, they cannot afford the psychological effect crime can have on the way they live.
If your home isn't safe, you lose a lot of confidence. You don't sleep well at night. You don't want to go out where there might be an even greater threat to your safety.
With all this in mind, I called the burglary division of the Montgomery County police department. The county police offer an excellent service to resident homeowners. In many other areas you can schedule an appointment for someone in your police department to visit your home to make a security appraisal. No charge.
Following the county police officer around a sample home, I learned plenty. First off, he said that of the $5-million-worth of property stolen during the past year, only $800,000 of it could be traced to truly professional burglars. The vast majority of thefts then were attributed to teen-agers and "other hit-and-run amateurs."
Right off the bat, the officer pointed out two glaring weaknesses in the home's security (the owners already had put on some good locks). He said a stairway going down to the basement was an ideal place to work on a window or a door because it was completely hidden. He suggested putting steel pins (removable) on the windows.
You can put bars on windows but you hve to be careful about leaving exits for escape in case of fire. Your fire department can advise you on this. Removable steel window pins which go through one section of a double-hung window into the other section cost just a few cents.
If you have window wells, a steel grating should be put over the top. For the sample home, two large window-well gratings would cost around $190 installed.
After securing the hidden basement area, the officer proceeded to the other weak spot -- the garage. "Most people don't realize that their garage is a favorite spot for burglars to hit," the officer said.
Burglars can get into a garage and then out of sight, work to break in the door to the kitchen or hallway. If the garage has an overhead, sliding door, the officer suggests installing an electric, automatic door opener.
These cost around $375 installed but, he says, are well worth it because they keep the garage door locked until you activate the electronic, remote-control opener. When the door opens; the garage light is automatically turned on. This can prevent being surprised by a burglar.
If there are two garage doors, the officer says the one that's least used should have a hole drilled in the slide bolt so it can be secured with a pin inside.
Any other garage doors or windows should be secured with double-bolt locks, pin bolts on windows or iron grates. "Keep 'em out of the garage," the officer warns.
Elsewhere, pin bolts should be installed in the windows (or jimmy-proff window locks). Doors should have "mortised deadlocks." The usual locks you get with a home are easy to jimmy.
A chain on the door is next to unless for houses or apartments. You should get a wide-angle-lens peephole (less than $5 installed) and don't let anyone in who is not properly identified.
Q. I am 53 and still have a job. My husband recently retired at 62 and is getting Social Security checks. For years I have been buying Series E Savings Bonds and have piled up quite a packet of them.
But, the interest is in the 6 percent range, which is much less than you can get with money market certificates [11 to 12 percent]. If I turn in my bonds now to get the higher interest on the certificates, would I have to pay state and federal taxes on the interest earned? What are the pros and cons of holding the savings bonds or selling them to get better interest rates?
A. First of all, there is never a state tax on government savings bonds, only the federal income tax. With savings bonds you can defer paying taxes on them until a later stage in your life when you have a lower income and would be in a lower tax bracket.
Just how much money you would save or lose on taxes depends on your tax bracket. It might not be a bad idea to have a tax-wise accountant look over your situation and come up with some tailor-made advice.