HOUSTON — With a simple twist of the door’s deadbolt, the house is secured and all the possession inside are safe.
Or so you think.
“It’s a sinking feeling to know someone could come into your house so quickly, so uninvited,” said a young woman named Ashleigh, who only wants to be identified by her first name. Ashleigh lives alone and said she’s obsessed with security.
“Burglar alarm, glass-break sensors and I arm my alarm all the time,” she said.
And she also installed deadbolt locks on the doors of her townhome.
But despite all of those steps, this summer she came home to a mess. Her home was ransacked by thieves.
“All of a sudden I felt like a stranger in my own home,” she said.
So how did they get in? The answer is surprising.
“She might as well not of had a deadbolt in the door,” said safety and security consultant Steve Dunbar. Dunbar investigated the break-in and determined the thieves easily got in because of her door’s deadbolts.
“When I told her she was upset, of course,” Dunbar said.
So what’s the problem? Well, it’s something that’s frighteningly common and something you may not know about, but the crooks do.
Too many deadbolt locks are misinstalled, leaving residents vulnerable.
“People need to be aware that their deadbolt may not be locking,” said Houston locksmith Neil Brunskill, of A2Z Houston Locksmith.
Brunskill said many locksmiths and contractors don’t drill what’s called a mortis hole deep enough for the bolt to really lock in to the doorframe.
He gave an alarming demonstration to show just how easy it is. Even worse, Brunskill said he sees poorly installed locks like that all the time.
“More than half of the homes out there probably have at least one door, exterior door, where you are going to look in and find that the latch is not going fully in the door frame,” he said.
It has even happened at the home of police reporter Jeff McShan at KENS 5's sister station in Houston. Thieves breezed past his dead-bolted door because of a shallow mortis hole.
McShan recalled police investigating the crime.
“The first thing they said is I needed to get a deadbolt that shoots deeper into the hole. If it were in there deeper, they would have had more of a hard time opening it up,” he said.
So what can homeowners do?
Brunskill said check the locks. The lock itself is an inch long, so residents must make sure that the mortis hole is at least one-inch deep.
And getting it fixed can mean everything.
After that break-in Ashleigh had the mortis holes for her locks reworked.
“It goes much deeper than it used to,” Ashleigh said as she showed off her new locks.
And guess what? Two weeks after the first successful burglary, the thieves tried again and failed to break in.
“It’s just nice to know that the deadbolt is working and I’m protected,” she said.