Windows and Security In The Home

by Tobe Walter
(New Jersey)

Even a novice burglar generally knows how to unlatch a window with a knife blade inserted between the window sashes. And unless a window is fitted with special break-resistant plastic panes, it is relatively simple to cut or break away enough glass to reach inside and undo the latch. However, any of a number of locking devices can guard windows against all but a skilled and persistent intruder. Some of them are clearly visible additions, and thus are useful as deterrents. The sight of a formidable looking lock can persuade a criminal to move on and try his luck elsewhere.

Ideally, every window easily accessible from outside should be fitted with a lock, but any window that might become an emergency exit in a fire should be locked in such a way that it can be opened quickly and easily from inside. Locks that work with a key should be keyed alike, so that one key will open any window, and a key should be kept where it is handy for use from inside but cannot be fished for from outside.

For the common double hung window two wooden sashes that slide up and down in a frame the simplest lock to install is a keyed unit that replaces the standard thumb latch. Sometimes you will not even have to drill new holes to do the job. But to prevent an intruder from unscrewing this type of lock or any other that is anchored with common screws you should deface the heads of the screws that come with the lock or fasten it with nonretractable "prison" screws.

The keyed latch is also, unfortunately, one of the least effective window locks; it is readily loosened from outside with a pry bar. More effective locks rely on a metal shaft that pierces both sashes (opposite, top) and holds them tightly together. Mounted near the side of the window rather than in the middle, such locks are relatively pry resistant.

Another advantage of this kind of lock is that it can secure a window in two positions closed or partly open for ventilation. The same dual feature is offered by a wedge-type lock (opposite, bottom left), which comes with two strike plates for the open and shut positions. Locked into the top sash and holding the bottom sash down with a toothed wedge, the lock is a highly effective barrier against break ins. More difficult to lock than conventional double hung windows are horizontally sliding glass windows and casement windows.

Sliding glass models are best secured by the methods that are used for sliding doors. In a casement window that opens with a crank, you can simply remove the crank handle from the shaft and put it at a location near the window but out of a burglar's sight and reach. For extra protection, however, you can replace the standard latch with a latch that must be locked with a key.

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