Is your home at risk? Lock-picking dangers, ways to protect yourself

We’ve all seen it in the movies. A crook walks up to a door, pulls out a couple of tools, and picks the lock with ease.

After months of research, we learned, lock picking is not only real, it can be learned with relative ease, and your home could be vulnerable.

We began with a simple Google search. We soon found dozens of retailers willing to sell us a variety of tools to bypass common door locks. There were picks, pick sets, pick “guns”, and the cheapest and scariest alternative: bump keys.

Using locks we recently purchased at a local hardware big box store, we soon learned every tool could work, and some of them worked with hardly any effort or skill at all.

ABC15 won't be detailing exactly how these tools work, but experts tell us, criminals already know this stuff, and they're using that knowledge and skill to their advantage.

"Anybody with a few dollars and an internet connection can learn how to get in to almost any lock out there," said Robert Vallelunga of Acme locksmith in Mesa. Vallelunga said he gets a phone call from a customer at least once a month complaining someone got into their home, with no sign of forcing their way in.

“If your house is over five years old and you haven't done anything to protect yourself, you're at risk,” he said.

We decided to see if the methods really worked on actual valley homes. I started with my own. I soon found I could “bump” the lock open using a bump key within just a few seconds.

We tried the home of an ABC15 Producer. Within a few minutes I had used two different methods to by-pass her locks.  She had only purchased and installed them a few months ago.

Then, we hit a neighborhood at random.  Homeowner Joe Hatch agreed to let us try it on his front door. Within a minute, I had made my way in. “That’s creepy,” Hatch said.  “Wow… so what do I do?”

Robert Vallelunga has some advice.

--Look for bump resistant or “spool pin” locks. These are locks specifically designed to make it more difficult to pick.

--Use a secondary device, like a latch which will fit over the thumb-turn on the inside of the door. That makes it impossible for the lock to turn no matter what someone on the outside is doing.  Vallelunga recommends leaving through the garage, so the front door can always be secured with a secondary device.

--Use a “smartkey” device. This product is produced by Kwikset and utilizes a different design from traditional locks.  It’s almost impossible to bump or pick.

--Ask a locksmith for other recommendations on high security locks.

Police tell us the vast majority of burglaries do not involve lock picking, or lock bumping.  Instead, criminals typically break down a door or break a window.

Police say preventing burglaries still boils down to having a dog, an alarm system, and watching out for your neighbors.

Despite that advice, locksmiths say picking or bumping a lock gives a crook the opportunity to get in and out of your home without any evidence of breaking in – which is ideal for stealing one or two items, or your personal information.  It could be months before the home owner even knows a crime has been committed.


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