Is your front door safe enough?

Just like a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, your home security is no stronger than the easiest and quietest way to defeat it.

Look at your front door, the most used and most likely entry point for anyone wishing to enter your home for either good or ill. Is it a strong solid door without an breakable window near the lock? A good first step,  if properly locked crashing through it will at least be noisy.

Check the door on the left. A parole office and police officer used a battering ram to try to enter this apartment, but gave up without getting it open. It was a standard commercial apartment door set into a matching steel frame. It held, the deadbolt did its job. The attempt was abandoned by them, However just a few days later the fugitive entered the apartment without a key by climbing to the second story balcony and using the sliding patio door.

The neighbors heard the Police and Parole office but no one noticed the criminal.

A standard sliding patio door is about the easiest point of entry on most houses. it is often away from the public view, behind the house, shrouded by shrubs and fences, and not often lit, or even locked. The locks are usually weak and often don’t work well at all. Even one that is in good shape will usually yield to a simple pry-bar. There are blocking bar and other types of add on devices that can help.

How are the locks on your outside doors? The old standard locking knob is better than no lock at all but not much, it will stop someone from just walking in but a pry-bar or screw driver or even a swift kick will usually allow a criminal access. A deadbolt is somewhat better but only against someone without the initiative to make or buy a $3 bump key. Most standard entrance locksets and deadbolts are easily and quietly defeated with a bump key. Forget what you’ve seen on TV about people picking locks (like Magnum “don’t look at the dogs, work the lock!”). A bump key works by basically inserting the bump key like a regular key, pull it out a bit, lightly twist the key with one hand and bump the key back in. The lock is defeated. Hardly a noise, in as little as a second, taking no more time than you usually take unlocking it with your own key.

How do you safeguard against a bump key? key If your key looks like this one, the lock is vulnerable to a bump key. That includes deadbolts and door knob locksets. The same company that sells the bump keys will sell you an inexpensive piece that will mount inside a deadbolt that will prevent any key opening it from the outside but that does nothing for you when you are not there, and a bump key leaves no visible evidence outside that someone has entered, you cannot know that there is no one waiting inside when you use your key to open the door.

One solution is to replace the deadbolt lock with a keypad which has no key (I do wonder about getting in if you forgot the code or the battery goes dead). Another is to install a bump resistant lock, here is a video by Kwickset about their smart key tech vs their competitor (there is another youtube that shows how to defeat the Kwickset in 10 seconds so the technology is not perfect). Even Kwickset’s web page notes that no lock is 100% unpickable.

There are lock replacements that work with a cell phone with or without a key lock in combination.

The best you can hope to do is make it difficult or time consuming or noisy. Backing up any lock with a security – alarm system can help by making it more likely to be noisy or alerting someone. Short of hiring guards 24-7 to guard your home, there is no way to assure that no one will break into your home. Even with a perfect unbreakable lock on a perfect door, they could break a window or take an axe and crash through the wall. The best you can hope for is to discourage the person, make them look for softer targets.

There are two schools of thought on placing an NRA sticker or a sign saying “we don’t call 911” and a picture of a gun. It may deter thieves when they suspect someone is home but may attract them if they know the place is vacant.

So just don’t make your place easy to target, try to force an intruder to bring more tools, make more noise or spend more time and make it obvious what they are doing or what they have done. And most important – lock the locks and don’t hide a key.

Are they cheating?

Think your spouse is cheating? While not set in concrete, the following are some things to watch for:

  • Your spouse starts working a lot of overtime – going in early or coming home late
  • Your husband or wife uses the internet often and wants privacy while doing so
  • Extra mileage on the odometer
  • Your spouse hides their cell phone bill / house phone bill
  • Your spouse often says ” It’s your imagination “
  • Your spouse receives “hang up” phone calls
  • Your significant other is not interested in having sex anymore
  • Doesn’t wear their wedding ring
  • New sexual techniques
  • Often says ” I need my space”
  • Shows a sudden interest in a different type of music
  • Your wife’s or husband’s co-workers are uncomfortable in your presence
  • Spouse has a sudden preoccupation with his or her appearance
  • Spends an excessive amount of time on the computer when you are asleep
  • The amount of money being deposited into your checking account drops off
  • You find items of intimate apparel that you did not give your spouse
  • Your partner seems less comfortable around you
  • You receive calls where the caller hangs up
  • Your notice a change in attitude towards everyone in the home
  • Spouse uses a low voice or whisper on the phone or hangs up quickly
  • Your spouse begins to delete all incoming phone calls from the caller ID
  • Your spouse deletes all incoming e-mails when they used to accumulate
  • A cheating spouse will have a change in grooming habits
  • Your partner picks fights and argues with you more over little things
  • If your spouse is dressing nicer, looking nicer, it may be because they are trying
  • to impress someone, and possibly cheating
  • If you notice charges on credit card statement that don’t make sense

Some odd investigations

 

 

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Updated 2/24/17

Sometimes odd things happen in investigations. Here are a few recent examples:

While following a couple through the airport, I knew their flight’s bags were to come in on carousel 7 so I headed to number 6 so I could watch from a distance. They got confused and walked past me to number 5 – passing less than a foot from me. I was careful to keep watching the bags on 6 and not look at them. Later they were at 7 and I relocated next to a pillar by the escalator, looking off toward the incoming flights passengers. They got their bags and walked away from 7 – to a spot 3 feet behind me! I try to stay far enough away that I don’t register on the target’s awareness, sometimes they don’t cooperate. They didn’t seem to notice or change their behavior, I later followed them from a hotel bar and watched them walk together into a room at that hotel (minutes later he texted his wife that he was leaving the bar and heading back to his room and that he loved her).

A soon to be divorced man was upset not only that his estranged wife had a guy living with her but that the guy was a registered sex offender. He decided that at least the guy should have to register at her address and had already contacted local police but without evidence that he was really staying there for more than 5 days they couldn’t do anything. I contacted a neighbor across the street and asked to use his tree to mount a camera – I told him exactly why, even showed him a picture of the guy. The neighbor was happy to let me but did ask if I captured pictures of the cougar rumored roam the area he’d like to see it.  The camera caught him coming and going and hiding his car in the garage (that was supposed to be so full of stuff a car wouldn’t fit), caught him mowing the lawn and obviously living there. This was enough to get the police to contact him and he is now registered at her address. Saw a kitty cat, no cougar but did catch two neighborhood kids paying way too much attention to my camera at three AM.

In a contested divorce case I determined that the husband had a new live in girl friend. While I was investigating him and his assets, he appears to have had the girlfriend buy a birthday present for his 6 year old daughter who lives in another state with the wife. She ordered online three Hello Kitty wines! Cannot imagine what she was thinking, was it spite against the wife or against her “boyfriend”? Had no idea there were Hello Kitty wines!

A husband needed to find his estranged wife to serve her with divorce papers, he had two possible areas of the city where she might be. As a precaution I checked for restraining orders and found that not only did his wife have one against him, he had one against her so I couldn’t let either of them know the other’s whereabouts. He did have a lawyer so I told him I could work through the lawyer only. I tracked down a likely address for her and went there – knocked on the door and a young woman answered. I had a picture of the wife and this was not her. I asked if the wife was there she said she doesn’t live there anymore. I asked is she had any forwarding address. A teen aged kid behind her pops up and says she is in rehab in California. The woman agreed with that, but did admit she had a phone number that might or might not be still working. I thanked her and went back to the car and called the number, asked for the wife, and it was she who answered. I explained to her that her husband hired me to find her so she could be served and get the divorce going after these two years. She agreed that would be good, to get it done but was very leery about telling me where she lived or worked but she told me what part of town and said the next evening after she got off work would be good. I said no problem – maybe someplace like Starbucks? She eventually agreed to meet at a police station which was okay by me. The next day she let me know which police station – it was twenty miles from where she had claimed to be. The next day I talked to the husband, he admitted he had been living in his truck in a mountain campground. I never did know where either was really living but he paid cash and the papers were served.

Workers Comp case, a guy out of work seemed to be working, needed to be caught. Knowing he had no license after a DUI it seemed likely he was taking a bus or light rail. On Sunday, not expecting him to be working, I parked near his apartment on the likely route in order to scope out the possibilities, with video cameras aimed at the bus/train station and his apartment I was watching the buses, trains and people. Out of no where he shows up behind my vehicle walking across to a convenience store.  Reviewing the videos later I did not see him walking from the apartment or from the bus / train. There is a chain link fence that whole block with no gates or gaps – where had he come from? By syncing the videos I saw a white cargo van come from the direction of the apartment but did not appear in the other view for almost a minute. He had been in the van and they dropped him off right across the street from me. Well I now knew what to look for as his transport to and from work.

 

Investigations for Divorce and Custody

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What can a private investigator do for your divorce or child custody case?
Here are some examples from actual cases of mine. One client suspected their spouse had been lying in reports to the court about where they were employed but without direct evidence the court would not issue a subpoena for records from the employer. It required surveillance at the employer’s facility to first identify and verify the spouse’s car was there and then I was able to photograph the spouse in the car leaving work

I then followed to where the spouse was now living and it also did not match what had been reported to the court. With some further confirmation that spouse is facing a contempt of court summons.

In a child custody case out of state I was able to document the use of marijuana by the parent seeking custody. Although the use in Colorado is legal, the use by a parent with a child in the house could still be an issue in custody here and certainly is in other states.

Often the question of hidden assets is involved, I have been able to document that one spouse had bought a condo and titled it in the name of his minor child to conceal the ownership from the soon to be ex spouse. Also they often use one bank account to pay child support or maintenance and another to conceal their hidden money, finding evidence of multiple accounts allows for subpoenas to each bank which can reveal hidden cash and hidden income.

Even long after a divorce there are things that can be done. One single mom had been unable to get child support through the state enforcement agencies. He owed nearly thirty thousand. I was able to track down the home he owns and where he works.

Getting evidence needed requires a variety of methods and tools. I have access to online commercial and government databases. I use time tested methods to legally find evidence and add to that innovative new methods designed to legally break through resistance.

Can you go through divorce and child custody on your own? Sure and some people do their own dental work, but better outcomes usually result from using a professional.

ARE YOU BEING GANG STALKED?

Ever heard of Gang Stalking? Some say it doesn’t exist, others say it is all over the place.

The truth is probably somewhere in between. Stalking is a crime in Colorado. It doesn’t matter who the stalker is, if the actions are undertaken with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, it is illegal. Legitimate surveillance or investigation, either by law enforcement or private investigators, crosses the line when the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person.

What can you do if you think you are being stalked? Make sure you do not make it easy for a stalker to target you, don’t leave your house, car, garage unlocked. Unlocked doors and windows are invitations to all sorts of bad actors.

When you are out in public, be aware of your surroundings. If you are walking keep your nose out of your phone, look at what is around you – you might find some interesting things that don’t involve goofy videos, there are plenty of goofy real life things happening.

Vary your routines, do things differently. If you drive to work or other places daily, take different routes. When driving if you use WAZE, ignore the first couple of turns it suggests, it will give you a different route. Start out at different times – leave earlier. When leaving work, drive to a different super market on the way home, or just turn left instead of right – pull into a shopping area, drive through and then go back out – basically, don’t be predictable.

When you are driving, look at the other drivers and their cars. Think of who the other drivers look like – then if you see them again later you will recognize them easier. Look at the license plates around you when driving or when you park, try to make up word that fit like one with the letters YST – You Should Too, ILK – got mILK? Look at the numbers 356 – well that’s a gun, 737 – at jet plane, 069 – OH That number! Look at the goofy stick figure stickers on the windows or political stickers or dents. Anything that makes a car unique. Then if you see that car in other places it will stand our. Or that guy that looks like Brad Pitt after thirty hard years was walking past as you left work and now he’s in the grocery store twenty miles away and why did he take off his jacket? It is all about being aware of your surroundings.

So what can you do if you see things that make you alarmed – sometimes just noticing them, not even confronting them, will be enough to get them to quit. If it persists, call the police or a Private Investigator. It will help if you can say for certain that you saw the same person(s) or car(s) in different places and at different times. The latest generation of “dash Cams” are less expensive and can be mound facing front or back (or both). They can be plugged into your car’s power and can take video – some even when parked overnight – of anything moving in their range. These can make it simpler to get pictures of the same person at different times and places and will get a head start on identifying the person(s) involved.

 

GPS trackers

51plgx4oayl-_sl160_sl150_There are all sorts of reasons for wanting to have a GPS unit attached to things so you can find out where they are or where they have been. As far as I can see, if something belongs to you tracking it on GPS is legal. Tracking other peoples’ things – not so much.

There are all sorts of hardware setups, there are small tags that can be clipped to a pet’s collar or kids backpack. Devices – like the picture above that can be permanently or temporarily attached to a car. The hardware can be a smartphone.

All require some software and for real time tracking, there may need to be a cell phone simm card and a subscription service (maybe $25 a month). For after the fact tracking, there are some that simply store the GPS data on a mini SD card you read later on a PC. There are even some that use bluetooth and can send a real time update of location through other people’s (participating) bluetooth phones.

The vehicle attached units can have other useful options, especially for watching where your teenager is taking your car. They can send SMS text messages to your phone if they arrive at or leave certain areas – home or school or work. They can let you watch real time and see the location and speed of the car.

The ones connected to the car’s systems can tell you other things – like low on gas or oil, if the unit gets removed or disconnected. Some can even disable the vehicle and prevent it starting. Some can pick up and transmit to your phone sounds in the vehicle (recording conversations may violate state laws).

There are apps that can be installed on a smartphone that will track the phone – some secretly some openly – these can be useful for tracking business travel or tracking teens. They can also find the phone if it is lost, some can activate the phone’s camera to capture the person who may have found or stolen the phone and send that picture to you. They can also disable the phone remotely.

There may be some legal questions about tracking an adult or their car or phone. But tracking your own pet, car and phone should be OKAY.

Private Investigator vs Google

pizza delivery

Why hire a PI when “everything” can be Googled? To get real answers, not pizza – that’s why..

Sure it seems like everything can be Googled, sometimes you have to pay? The truth is real info is restricted and not available to the public. What you can find through Google or those People finder sites is a conglomeration of data compiled by data mining information from all sorts of lists. These lists are purchased from stores with frequent buyer cards, bulk mailing houses, companies that do deliveries.

And what is wrong with that? Recently several teens spent the evening at my home. One ordered Pizza for the group – used their parent’s credit card, a cell phone on the parent’s cell phone account and had it delivered to my address. At some time in the future that name, phone number and credit card info will be associated to my address. If someone comes looking to serve them court papers good luck – I don’t even know the parent’s name and cannot help them out.

What you get from these sites may look real and may be correct but if you need to take the information to court and get a judge to let you use it to collect money you are owed, get child custody settled, get a divorce and support case settled you need verifiable and verified information.

As a licensed P.I. I have access to databases, both private and government operated that are restricted and have real verifiable data. Beyond that I go beyond that and verify the data by other means. This data is then admissible to the courts and can be the basis of court orders.

Don’t waste money on pay information sites that will do nothing for you in court. Start by calling or emailing me.

Police Blotter

Used to be you could get the local newspaper and look at the recent police calls in your town. Well those printed papers are scarce and the police call info they may have is weeks old when it is printed.

Try this site called Raidsonline. It will show you on a map what calls were made in what ever area you select map1and the time frame you want to see.

Each different call is a different icon and clicking it gives an approximate address (privacy) and date and time and a brief description.

The added benefits are you don’t get newspaper ink on your fingers and you don’t have to dispose of the paper when you are done.

If you want to listen real time, try one of the several police scanner apps on your smart phone or PC. they don’t give you the undercover calls but most Police, Fire and EMS calls come through. As with the over the air radios, it takes some listening and a jargon cheatsheet to understand.

But these should satisfy your crime snooper curiosity from your phone or PC.

Can a quality door and lock make a difference in your security?

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A police or parole officer with a battering ram wanting to gain access to an apartment would seem to be a pretty good test of the integrity of a door and lock system. This door was on an apartment, it is set into the steel commercial frame in a masonry wall. The ram actually tore the steel surface of the door in one spot, it was obviously multiple blows and the deadbolt held, the door is trash and there is damage to the striker plate inside.

If this was your door and the person trying to gain entry was not a law enforcement officer with a warrant they would look for either an easier access point or another target. Even the officers gave up on this one before gaining entry. The neighbors were all well aware of the attempt well before they gave up. If they were not obviously law enforcement officers the nearest neighbor said she would have called 911. (She should have called anyway since there is always the possibility that they were not really law enforcement),

A strong door, set in a strong frame with a good lock can make a difference between someone entering your home or not.

UPDATE – Who is this new guy I met?

elderly coupleNot long after this happened – at the WalMart in Parker, CO I heard from two other women of about the same age who had been approached by the same guy with about the same line.

Do not know what his endgame is but he is not the Mr. Right for these women.

 

BEWARE!

Not long ago a recent widow asked me to do a background check on a new “Beau”. At seventy she felt just a little leery of accepting him at face value.

He met her at the local grocery store and it ended with a couple hour visit at StarBucks and a couple kisses. She found a Facebook page for him and the picture matched. Showed pictures of him with his kids. She just had a “vibe” that made her want to check.

He told her his name, how old he was, that he had been widowed 12 years ago, that he had “kids ” living in the area, lots of details.

Problems popped immediately when I started to check the details. His phone came back as belonging to someone with the same first name but similar although different last name. Searching the name he gave came back with virtually nothing, on the cell phone owner’s name – a different story.

That story was there was a move 12 years ago to the general area he said he lived (didn’t give her his address), there was a record of a woman at that address with the same first name as his “late” wife and this other last name but no indication (like the SS death list) that she was “late”. The kids he had mentioned by first name existed with the different last name attached but they did not appear to live in the area.

So it looks like he told her some truth – first name, phone number, how long he had lived in the area, his wife’s first name, his kids first names. It just seems the lies were in the “details” like a living wife, his real name, his real intentions (which remain unknown but certainly seem nefarious).

She decided to cancel going to breakfast with him.