"Look at the dead bolt," BCSO Sgt. Jonathan Rogers said. "Does it turn all the way when you lock it? Sometimes there will be something down in there like a paper towel to stop the lock."
Rogers, fiddling with a dead bolt on a door, showed how the lock is supposed to fully extend, and then how it did not fully lock into place when the dead bolt was turned, supposedly fastening it to the frame. The test to see if a dead bolt is working properly is simple: open the door, while turning the dead bolt lock, see how far it is supposed to extend. Close the door and, when turning the lock, pay attention to how far it will turn. Does it go all the way? If not, chances are there is either something in the hole for the lock preventing it from turning or the hole should be drilled deeper into the frame.
Seals between the door and frame can be an extra addition to not only hold in heat but also prevent burglars from opening locks.
"Without that, you can stick something through the crack and open the door," Rogers said.
Windows near door locks are easily broken and should be avoided. If this cannot be avoided, however, Rogers suggests adding a lock at the top of the door or at the bottom. French doors and sliding glass doors are easily broken into as well.
Windows, another common entry point, have certain weaknesses and strengths to home protection.
"In older homes, sometimes, the windows are painted shut or sealed if the house has sat long enough," Rogers said.
Newer windows are different.
"The new windows fall in for cleaning," Rogers said. "When you put it back, make sure that it snaps all the way until it clicks. If it doesn't, people can just push it open.
"I've been to some burglaries where people didn't know their window wasn't even locked until they heard it click when we pushed it back."
Rogers also noted that windows should be even when they are locked. Standing from the outside looking in, if the top half of the window is even slightly down, the lock is not secure and can be maneuvered for entry. In such cases, Rogers said that burglars will sometimes pull top windows down instead of pushing bottom windows up to gain entry.
Screens serve as an extra step a burglar must conquer before entering a home, and Rogers encourages any type of complications.
"I always tell people anything that makes a burglar go through an extra step is more discouraging," Rogers said. "That's longer they've got to be right there with more eyes on them. Anything they're going to have to do to be longer outside the house they're not going to do."
Although screens are a moderate deterrent, they may not be enough if bushes close to windows can offer coverage.
"Keep bushes trimmed so there can't be someone hiding behind them trying to get in," Rogers said. "No one can see them from the street, so always keep them low and away from windows."
So, what can be done to protect homes? Rogers suggests using any resources available for whichever means of protection work best for each individual.
"If you can afford any kind of resources or alarm, I say get it," Rogers said.
Besides alarms, cameras are another alternative. If cameras and alarms extend beyond the family's budget, consider posting alarm signs and fake cameras.
"When a burglar is shopping for a house, they don't like alarm signs," Rogers said. "They don't like cameras, and they won't stop to check if they're real."
Above all this, Rogers suggests reaching out to neighbors.
"The best thing to do is reach out to neighbors," Rogers said. "Some people will set up an email group and, if anyone witnesses anything unusual, just send that neighbor a message."
Law enforcement officers are able to ride by and check on homes as well.
"A lot of times people will say, 'Oh, I don't want to bother them,'" Rogers said. "But we'll prioritize the calls. If there's a bank robbery, we're not going to check on a house, we'll go to the bank robbery. But you don't have to meet [with an officer]. We can ride by and check on something without talking to anyone."
Outside lights can help as well. Flood lights can either be activated by motion sensor or a light switch. Either way, they flood the area with light. Rogers pointed out that the switch can be wired to turn on either at the front door or back door. If someone tries to break in the back door and the light comes on, they will not have a way to know which light switch was flipped.
Yet, there is a downside to all protective measures.
"Point blank, if someone wants to get in your house, they're going to find a way," Rogers said.
Safety measures do exist. Although if a home is broken into while family members are present, Rogers suggests making a plan.
"Just like a fire escape plan," Rogers said, "make a home invasion plan."
If suspicious activity is spotted, Rogers suggests calling for an officer to ride by and check the area. Tips also may be called in to the Cartersville-Bartow Crime Stoppers at 770-606-TIPS (8477).