The Montgomery County Police Department has arranged for residents to receive a discount on premiums for GEICO homeowner's and renter's insurance polices if their homes or apartments meet certain security standards.
Under the program, which may be the first of its kind in the nation, homeowners could be eligible for a 10 percent discount and apartment renters and condominium owners a 25 percent discount, officials said.
The new program is the latest effort by county police to stem the increasing number of home burglaries, according to Joseph Hancock, commander of the county crime prevention section.
Hancock said projections indicate one of every 50 county homes will eventually be burglarized. Last year, he said, about 5,500 burglaries were reported in the county. Most were committed by juveniles who entered homes either through open doors or windows, or by jimmying doorlocks or lifting sliding glass doors from frames, he said.
Only Geico is now participating, Hancock said. However, officials said there is no reason why other insurance companies could not participate, too.
Homeowners or renters wanting to take part in the program must contract county police who will inspect the home or apartment and recommend safeguards against burglary, Hancock said.
Later, police will reinspect the dwelling to see if the changes have been made. If the structure meets security standards, police will issue a "Shield of Confidence" emblem that can be displayed on the dwelling's exterior.
The new program resembles some-what the county's "Operation Identification" in which individuals engrave their driver's license number on valuable such as stereos and televisions and are given an emblem identifying them as participants.
Police say burglars are less likely to break into homes bearing the "Operation Identification" emblem because engraved items are too easily traced and make it easier for police to prove that they were stolen. As a result, he said, only one out of every 250 county homes bearing "Operation Identification" emblems is burglarized, a rate far lower than that for county homes as a whole.
In general, the department's minimum security standards for the "Shield of Confidence" program require deadbolt locks on all doors leading to the outside, and interior locks for all windows and sliding doors. Sliding doors must be installed so they cannot be removed or lifted from their track by a would-be burglar.
The requirements also call for an additional security device on windows and sliding doors. Hancock said, for example, that residents can place a bar across the middle of one of the sliding doors.
"We will give primary attention to the lock on the door," said Hancock. "We will tell (residents) what type of bolt they need. We will look at windows and explain how best to secure them. We will look at sliding doors."
Police also recommend that exterior doors be equipped with door viewers or vision panels and that the doors be made of solid core wood about two inches thick.
Hancock said it would be "costly" but not impossible for existing homes and apartments to comply with the standards. He said the Shield of Confidence program was originated as a voluntary project to encourage builders to install the antiburglary features in new homes. He said the program has been endorsed by the Suburban Maryland Homebuilders Association.
Under the plan, homeowners will be entitled to an average discount of about $13.50 on their annual insurance premium, while discounts for dwellers and condominium owners will amount to about $12.50, according to Geico officials.