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Stop Thief
Published by Admin - PPM Locksmiths in Burglary Prevention • 27/05/2014 16:18:11

STOP THIEF
As many of our customers are already aware, we at PPM Locksmiths always insist that we are in the business of crime prevention. Whenever there are news reports of a rise in burglaries, someone visiting the shop is likely to comment – inaccurately - that it must be good for business.

The truth is a little more complicated. Established and loyal customers who have used our services for years are likely to be more secure than the general population, so they are not the easiest of targets and are usually unaffected by variations in the statistics – which may be down to a few known thieves being released from custody and searching for easy pickings. Amongst those in South Wales who have not previously used our services, most people are unaware that there is no legal barrier to anyone advertising their services as a locksmith.

So, new customers searching online, or through a directory, often cannot distinguish between a team of qualified professional locksmiths based in a city centre shop, and a jack-of-all-trades handyman with limited knowledge and experience of locking products.
Many victims of burglary end up employing the services of an unqualified tradesman who is likely to replace their broken locks with inadequate, low-cost products – in many cases, actually worse than the locks that failed to prevent the break-in in the first place. We have had customers in our shop in Cardiff city centre asking for copy keys for a 2-lever bathroom lock that has been fitted to their wooden front door by an unqualified tradesman advertising as a locksmith.

The current trend with uPVC doors is for these tradesmen to fit replacement euro cylinders that are not anti-snap – manufacturers are anxious to offload these useless products cheaply before the insurance companies start to demand snap-proof locks with the new TS007 *** specification.

It’s possible to pick up these cylinders very cheaply – although it’s doubtful that the savings get passed on to the end user. Certainly, there are a number of unqualified individuals throughout the UK, offering their services to those who are locked out, who regularly fail to advise their customers that it took no special skill or knowledge to open the door, and that they should upgrade their locks.

Too often, customers are unaware that they are paying premium prices for poor quality products from the local DIY store or builders’ merchants. However, when too many of the decent and genuinely secure anti-snap cylinders are being fitted to British doors it would signal the end for the unqualified tradesmen offering this lucrative door opening service.

The more cynical amongst us might be forgiven for wondering whether their strategy is to deliberately ‘keep the door open’ for future calls - fitting locks simple enough for them to open the next time someone loses their key – at the expense of the innocent occupant who mistakenly assumes they are secure again, just because they couldn’t open the door without calling for help.

We live in a culture of amateurism in the UK, where many people really believe that they can do, and achieve anything, regardless of innate ability or talent, if only they want it enough. Consequently, there are confident, but ultimately self-deluding, people who cannot sing, standing up in front of millions warbling tunelessly while a braying public scoffs. Many men will drive aimlessly in circles for hours rather than ask for directions, and if the car engine sounds odd they will lift the bonnet and tinker with it for an hour rather than take it to a mechanic. If the drainpipe under the sink is dripping, they’ll wrap it with duct tape rather than call a plumber.

If the front door lock has started to play up, they’ll be most likely to go to the local DIY store to find a replacement. Here, a helpful, but amateurish assistant may point out that they have exactly the same lock on their front door – which is another certain way of ending up with entirely the wrong product.

Countless TV programmes insist that you don’t need to call an expert – you can save money by doing it yourself – anything from house sale conveyancing, laying a patio, cooking a cordon bleu dinner for twelve people, to selling everything you own on the internet, converting a derelict building into flats, or forming a limited company to manage a housing estate.

Jacob Bronowski pointed out, in his book ‘The Ascent of Man’, that civilisation is marked by the rise of the specialist. Nomadic and Stone Age cultures have to work hard to survive, limiting the hours they have to invent and innovate, to create something new. So, it is only when we have the farmer, bartering with the blacksmith and the baker – tradesmen who specialise in making certain goods and providing particular services – that we become ‘civilised’.

Unfortunately, if everyone wants to be an expert, then the real experts disappear, unwanted and unemployed, told that they have to change to survive in the modern world. That is the triumph of mediocrity.

Too many so-called “security” products are absolute junk. Not only are they insecure, and not worth the money, but they wear out rapidly. They cost less than the decent, genuine security products that are available, but they don’t do what is required. To the unwary, the whole field of security locks is a minefield. So, we will attempt to simplify this information for the uninitiated.

As the majority of homes now have uPVC doors, we will start with this problem. Any uPVC door comes complete with an espagnolette lock system. Originally adapted from a design used in Spain to lock windows, they are designed to secure the door by tying it in with the frame at several points. They are now more commonly known as multipoint locks, and there are at least 600 of these multipoint locks currently available for the door manufacturer to use.

When manufacturing doors, the fabricators select a multipoint lock, and construct the door to accommodate the lock system. Once the door has been completed, the choice of multipoint determines which alternatives may be used when the original lock fails. The doors are advertised as maintenance-free, but this is far from the truth. While you may not have to paint them every few years, the average multipoint lock system will last, on average, between five and ten years, and when it fails, you are unlikely to be able to replace it with anything more durable or secure – that is determined by the original mechanism and the construction of the door.

The earliest doors, having a lock system adapted from wooden window espagnolette locks, had simple rollers that slid up into sockets on the frame when the door handle was raised. With a flexible door, these were easily overcome by flexing the door to spring the rollers out of their sockets. Later types had mushroom-headed rollers that gripped the frame, preventing a flex attack. More recently, better systems have hooks and shootbolts to connect door and frame at several points.

Most uPVC doors are now constructed with secure multipoint locks. However, this lock system is operated by a cylinder – the barrel into which keys are inserted. Such cylinders, known as euro cylinders, vary considerably in strength and quality. The vast majority of basic cylinders are completely useless against a form of attack known as ‘lock snapping’.

Most euro cylinders, or keys to operate them, have no markings to distinguish them. Until recently, there were no testing standards that could be applied. When the issue of lock snapping raised its head and became a more common method for opportunist burglars, some handymen responded by encouraging customers to fit British Standard kitemarked cylinders. This is a complete waste of money. British Standard cylinders do not protect against lock snapping.

The only reason the BS kitemark was created for euro cylinders is for them to be fitted in conjunction with a BS lockcase in a rigid wooden door, with secure escutcheons, where snapping is not such an easy option. The British Standard only applies when the cylinder is part of a complete set, with the corresponding BS case and escutcheons. On its own, the cylinder has limited use.

The British Standards Institute tests cylinders against drilling, picking and bumping, but it does NOT test for resistance to a lock snapping attack, and BS cylinders in uPVC doors offer no more effective security than the cheap, basic cylinders that can be bought for a few pounds in any hardware or DIY outlet.

The only criterion that matters is TS007 (Technical Specification number 7). This supersedes every other testing standard, including all BS kitemarks, because it is the first test of resistance to lock snapping. Most cylinders, probably about 98% of those available, don’t even register on the rating scale, but some snap-resistant cylinders merit a single star on the rating system. The most secure, such as the ABS cylinders, merit the maximum three stars.

If you have a one star* cylinder, you need two star** reinforced handles to make up the optimum three star*** set-up. A three star*** cylinder does not require additional reinforced handles to offer a secure set-up – because it occupies the highest security category of TS007 it is quite enough on its own.
Now that the testing standards have been established, it seems likely that it will be only a matter of time before insurance companies adopt the TS007 criterion as a minimum requirement for all uPVC doors.

Up until the introduction of the ABS cylinder at the end of 2010, there was no effective anti-snap euro cylinder available, and no testing standard to guide manufacturers, door fabricators and the general public. Now, with a single recognisable benchmark established, there should be no excuses for cheap and inadequate euro cylinders being upgraded to TS007.

For domestic wooden doors, the testing standard of BS3621 has been in place since 1980. All exterior entrance doors should be secured with a lock graded to BS3621. Other exterior wooden doors, such as a back door not used as an entrance, should be secured with either a BS 3621 lock, or a 5-lever mortice lock and two key-operated mortice bolts.

Remember, there are 5-lever locks that do not meet BS3621, and sliding surface-mounted bolts are not good enough – they must be opened and locked with a key to complement a 5-lever, unless the lock is up to British Standard.

All windows on the ground floor, or accessible from a wall, sloping roof or standpipe, must be secured with a lock or a key-operated locking handle, whether wooden or uPVC. There are devices in DIY shops that fix the window slightly ajar. Beware of these gadgets. They do not count as locks, and you will not be covered by your insurance if the window is not fully shut and locked.

Any burglar seeing a window open, whether it is secured or not, will find it an easy target, and a gadget that holds the window open will last seconds under attack. Use of these devices is an invitation to a thief, and certainly has no deterrent value whatsoever.

The most important point for all those in the least bit concerned about security is to avoid DIY security. If you ask an assistant in a DIY store which lock to fit to your front door, then you might as well ask another customer his or her opinion. You really would be more likely to get an informed answer if that other customer happens to have been a burglar. It’s important to consider that the store assistant’s job is to sell what they have in the shop, regardless of the fact that they will only stock the cheaper, basic locks, and usually cannot offer locks of a high standard that are likely to last much longer.

They don’t want to sell you a lock that will last twenty years. They want to sell you a lock that may last only three or four years, and after that, sell you the same thing to last a few more years. Why sell one decent lock when you can sell five inferior locks in its place?

If you want a decent, secure lock, ask the qualified staff in a specialist locksmith shop. Look for the MLA (Master Locksmiths Association) logo with two crossed keys. Then you can be assured that the staff have actually attended properties following burglaries, and have first-hand experience of products that are effective.

In the DIY world, few of the staff have any knowledge of security products or insurance requirements, and are very unlikely to have personal experience of criminal action on a range of locks as they would be discouraged from testing them. Anyone suffering a break-in would be misguided in calling their local handyman or DIY store to re-secure the property. The DIY store salesman’s job is not to help you to improve your home security, - they are not trained to do that - but to sell whatever they happen to have on the shelves, which they are trained to do.

Many years ago, a bibliophile friend managed to land her dream job – working in a bookshop, in the literature section, where she could add to her already encyclopaedic knowledge of books and authors. I knew that if I wanted to track down a particular novelist’s work, she would be able to help, and furnish information. She loved helping people to enjoy their reading, and had a great deal of job satisfaction from being able to employ her extensive specialised knowledge to recommend a particular work to the uninitiated.

With the advent of internet sales, many independent bookshops have closed, and even large chains have struggled desperately against the tide. My friend has now retired, content to leave a retail climate where customers would walk in to browse through books for hours on end, only to leave empty-handed and buy them online.
In the last few years, all of Europe has suffered the effects of the banking crisis that started in 2007, and money has been tight for many ordinary people. With less money to spend, consumers have opted for cheaper options. However, all too often this has proved to be false economy.

There are many clothing chains that sell cheap garments that fall apart in the wash. There has been a massive rise in the number of bargain shops that sell everything for £1 in recent years. Out of curiosity, I bought a large padlock for £1 to test the quality, and found I could pull it open without the key using just the strength of my fingers. As a security device it was utterly useless.

Obviously, to survive in retail business, we have to present our customers with products that offer value for money. We can’t leave it for the customer to decide, like the DIY stores, because customers choose us for our expertise. At PPM Locksmiths, this means that you actually get a product that is worth the money you pay, because it is tested to do the job you expect it to do. If a customer wastes money on a cheap, inferior lock in a DIY store, they deny responsibility for any failings, claiming it was the customer’s choice.

Very few cheap locking products perform to expectations, but we know the difference between those that are cheap and ineffective, and those that cost a bit more, but are stronger and more durable.
As I pointed out right at the start, we at PPM Locksmiths are in the business of crime prevention. The products we sell are not as cheap as many of the items in DIY stores, but they will stop a burglar, and they will last a lot longer, because that’s what we sell – REAL security, not a piece of packaging with an inflated description of an inferior product.

It may cost a bit more for effective crime prevention, but anyone who has suffered a burglary will know it’s worth the difference, so trust the specialists to know which products prevent a break-in. We stake our reputation on getting this right, not on driving prices, and therefore standards, down to absolute rock bottom. At PPM Locksmiths, you can be confident of being offered a range of tried and trusted products that will do what you want them to do, and for years to come.


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PPM Locksmiths Ltd 7 Dominions Arcade Queen Street Cardiff - Phone 029-20231717