News 13 Investigates: The cheap, quick fix you can do to stop a home intruder

News 13's found forced entries happen more often than you think. Asheville had 302 forced entries in 2016, That’s a 12-percent increase over the year before. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

It's surprisingly simple -- one kick and you could be standing inside someone’s home.

News 13 Investigates found forced entries happen more often than you think. Asheville had 302 forced entries in 2016, which is a 12 percent increase over the year before.

There's a burglary every 21 seconds in the US, according to the FBI. Last year, over a million nationwide were the victim of a home break-in.

It’s a loss of about $3.6 billion, and over half the time, thieves came in through a door.

But what if you could stop would-be-thieves in their tracks with a cheap fix you can do yourself? News 13 has a tip that anyone can do to their own home and all it takes is a trip to the store and $1.

A Buncombe County Break-in

“You can see where they kicked it, and there's hand prints,” said Natasha Wheatly, showing News 13 where thieves broke into their Buncombe County home.

The incident unnerved Wheatly, who has an infant and toddler at home.

“They had been upstairs at some point because the bedroom door to my daughter's room was wide open,” Natasha recalled.

“I don't know if they were still in the house when I got home or not,” she added.

The robbers ripped out the deadbolt, in its still locked position.

“When they kicked the door in, this was completely out like this. So, they busted all of that. It just kinda floored me that it was that easy,” Wheatly said.

News 13 Breaks in

News 13 isn't telling thieves anything they don’t already know. They know your door is an easy target, which is why half of all break-ins involve the door.

“All a screw does is make a track for a crack to start in that wood and it just breaks out from there,” said Mike Gatlin of Advantage Lock & Key LLC.

Here's why, the screws that come standard with just about every door lock kit are 3/4 inch screws.

“It split where the screws were screwed into the wood, because it just broke out this small piece of trim that's only three quarters of an inch thick, and you only had about a half an inch of screw going into that,” Gatlin showed.

Only securing the strike plate to the decorative frame around the door, and you could be through someone’s door with one kick. It was easy to send the strike plate flying with smaller screws.

“Three feet inside the door is the part that you kicked out,” said Gatlin.

The Fix

But there's a way to better secure your door that will only cost you around $1.

Gatlin, of Advantage Lock & Key, replaced those 3/4 inch screws in the strike plate with two 3 inch screws you can find in any home improvement store.

“You're actually gaining a minimum of 2 inches of security going into a 2 by 4 piece of wood that's stronger, sturdier,” Gatlin said.

So, when News 13 kicked, and kicked, and kicked.

“The door gives more now than the frame gives. The door bends because the latches on the locks are holding the edge of the door secure and the door is bending,” Gatlin said.

With the more kicks you make, the more noise you make and the bigger risk that someone else is going to hear the commotion.

“You've done more now than most people will do to try to break in, because you've made a lot of noise and somebody next door is going to hear,” Gatlin said.

A $1 fix can help keep intruders out.

“They don't want to spend the time. They don't want to make the noise. They don't have the time for it, and they'll move on to the next door neighbor who doesn't have the 3-inch screws,” Gatlin said.

The Wheatley's can attest to how easy it is.

“If it was that easy for us, for our door to get kicked in, all the houses in the neighborhood are made the same,” Natasha Wheatly said.

Mike Gatlin can attest -- builders are creatures of habit.

“I have gone out and added the screws and the strikes to many doors in the neighborhood where one incident happened, and it caused a cascade event. Every one of them was put in with short screws, and you can't call it a substandard way," Gatlin said. "It's the way it just is."

Which is all the more reason to take action. One dollar and 15 minutes could be what stands between you and someone in your home.

The experts say unless you add layers to your security, you’re not completely protected, which means changing out the screws in every lock that might be on your door.

Advantage Lock & Key LLC -- Mike Gatlin Owner, 828-667-3315 recommends 10 Safety Tips

Here are 10 surprising facts about burglary—and preventative tips—everyone concerned about home security should know.

1. Burglars tend to avoid homes with security systems.

Based on a report by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, about 60 percent of convicted burglars stated the presence of a security system influenced their decision to target another home.

Preventative Tip: Get a monitored home security system to help reduce the chance of being a burglary victim. Use the yard signs and window stickers you’re provided with to alert potential intruders to your security system. Make sure the signs and stickers are visible from every approach to your home—not just the front entrance.

2. Most burglaries take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of home burglaries take place during daylight hours, not at night. That’s because most people are at work or school—which reduces the chance the burglar will be noticed.

Preventative Tip: Install indoor and outdoor motion-activated home security cameras so you can check on your home throughout the day. Plus, you’ll receive an alert if the camera detects motion, so you can evaluate the situation immediately.

3. The majority of break-ins are committed by burglars who live nearby.

The typical burglar resides within two miles of the target home. Because they live close, it’s easy for them to learn your family’s daily schedule and strike when they know you’re not home. They may also check for signs that you’re on vacation—such as flyers or newspapers piling up at your door, an un-mowed lawn, or trash cans left at the curb.

Preventative Tip: To help minimize the risk of a burglary, vary your routine as much as possible and have someone take care of your home when you’re out of town.

4. Most criminals can burglarize a home in less than ten minutes.

Burglars look for homes that are easy targets. That’s why it doesn’t take long for most intruders to break into a house, get what they want, and take off before being noticed.

Preventative Tip: Strengthen your home’s defense by getting a home security system, keeping all entrances closed and locked, and installing a high-quality front door. Then go a step further: join, or form, a neighborhood watch group and use a crime mapping website to keep up-to-date on local crime trends.

5. Almost 30 percent of burglars enter a home through an unlocked door or window.

A surprising number of burglars gain access to homes through open or unlocked entrances. First floor windows and doors are especially well-liked by burglars—particularly when a burglar can be concealed behind overgrown vegetation.

Preventative Tip: Keep all entry points closed, locked, and alarmed, even when you’re at home. Make your home less appealing to intruders by keeping shrubs and trees trimmed back.

6. An astonishing 34 percent of burglars enter through the front door.

Whether they walk through an open front door or kick in a locked one, burglars aren’t shy about using your home’s primary entry point.

Preventative Tip: Keep your front door closed and locked at all times. If the door is worn or has a hollow core, replace it with a solid wood or metal door—they’re much harder to break down. To help further fortify your home against a burglar, use a quality knob-in-lock set with a heavy-duty deadbolt, mount a security camera or motion sensor light above the door, and install a smart doorbell. Never give your house key to workers or hide a key outside your home.

7. Burglars usually go to the master bedroom first.

Unfortunately, most people don’t hide their valuable items carefully, and burglars know it. Once they break in, burglars head straight for the master bedroom, where they scavenge through dresser drawers and nightstands, look under mattresses, and search closets. Cash, jewelry, and weapons are some of the things a burglar wants most from your home.

Preventative Tip: Store your valuables in a safe that’s bolted to the floor, or hide them in unlikely locations.

8. The average property dollar loss per burglary is a staggering $2,251.

The price of a home security system pales in comparison to the emotional and monetary cost of a burglary. The FBI reports that burglary victims in 2014 lost a total of $3.9 billion, and nearly 75 percent of the burgled locations were residential properties.

Preventative Tip: There’s a home security solution for almost every budget. You can get a basic home security plan for as little as $20 per month—advanced plans and upgraded equipment may cost more. Getting a monitored security system may also qualify you for a discount on your homeowners insurance policy.

9. Someone is home during nearly three out of every ten burglaries.

Coming home to find your material possessions stolen is frightening enough, but victims who are home when the burglary occurs experience even more trauma. According to a crime victimization survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, a household member is present during approximately 28 percent of burglaries, and 7 percent of these victims experienced some type of violent crime.

Preventative Tip: Make sure to arm your security system even when you’re at home. This will help keep you and anyone else in your home safe.

10. Only 13.6 percent of burglaries in 2014 resulted in arrests.

Typically, burglaries are exceptionally hard crimes to solve. Even if the burglar is found, you may not be reunited with your lost property.

Preventative Tip: Due to recent advances in home security solutions, more criminals can be caught on camera. For instance, by using a home security camera with a live video feed, a homeowner in Fairhaven, Massachusetts was able to see that two burglars were inside his home. He immediately contacted police, and the men were arrested at the scene. As a homeowner, you can use a home security solution to put a stop to burglars.

A special thanks to the Skyland Fire Department for allowing us to use a home they had secured for a training burn to show you the importance of the longer screws.

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