Why Every Home Should Own a Secure Safe

Houston is expanding.

Houston has been a growing and expanding city for quite some time, and in 2019 was named the 39th fastest growing city in the United States. This has come at an average population increase of about 2% per year, which means thousands and thousands of new residents are moving to Houston. This population increase has also come with a surge in criminal activity. With overall crime and break ins at a static high in Houston, now, more than ever, you need to make sure your home and belongings are safe. This is just one of the many reasons that every home should own a secure safe.

Crime rates are rising.

In the U.S., over 2.5 million burglaries are reported every year, and over 50% of those are home invasions. That equates to about 4,800 break-ins every day, or one every 15 seconds! 66% of all property burglaries occur within residential properties, while about 34% are accounted for at businesses.

So just how bad is the crime in Houston, exactly? Well, it’s really not great. Houston is a 3 on the crime index scale. This means that Houston is the same, or more dangerous, than 97% of all other cities in the United States. On average, Houston has 129,134 crimes committed per year, and of that number, 103,611 are property crimes. That means that property crime accounts for 80.2% of all criminal activity happening in Houston. In Texas alone, you have a 1/42 chance, statically speaking, of being a victim of property crime. However, this number skyrockets to 1/22 when referencing the city of Houston itself.

This is where it really pays to be prepared. While you should always make sure that your home is up to date and equipped with high security locks, you also need to make sure that your valuables are safe inside the home as well. Over 3.4 billion dollars are stolen every year due to personal property theft. This equates to an average of about $2,800 in damage and stolen goods per break-in. In 2021, the average American has roughly $3,400 in their bank account. With that being said, a $2,800 loss could be devastating for most. But what about those things that don’t have a price tag? That precious item, or family heirloom, or important documents? What happens if those are taken? This is where a home safe could save you not only financially, but sentimentally as well. There are some things we simply cannot get back.

How can I be better prepared?

So, how can you protect yourselves from this happening? By investing in a high-quality and secure safe. While home-owners, or renters, insurance can help, filing a claim also means that your premium rates will go up. The avenger premium went up over 20% after filing just one break-in claim! This means that many wont claim the break-in and will just replace the damage themselves. Instead of the worry, hassle, and financial burden of replacing your own valuables, investing in a safe can do all of that for you. These can protect your guns, weapons, valuables, jewelry, important paperwork, and whatever else you wish to keep safe for years and years to come.

Safes aren’t a one-size-fits-all kind of investment. There are thousands of different kinds of safes manufactured out there. There are commercial safes, floor safes, jewelry safes, gun safes and the list goes on and on. Finding a professional you can trust is invaluable when choosing the right one for you. Houston Safe and Lock has been in business, and serving the community of Houston for nearly 100 years. Founded in 1923, we have been proudly growing and adapting to the every-changing needs of our community, and thoroughly enjoy the services we get to offer. With almost a century of experience means that we know the ins-and-outs of what we do. We offer high quality and secure safes that will match your individual needs. We have safes that have been fire tested for over 120 minutes! This means that your valuables will not only be protected from burglars, but also from fire. The last thing you need to be worrying about in a house-fire is whether or not your valuables will be ok. We proudly sell, and service, AMSEC, American Security Products, safes and even have a wide selection of used safes. Buying a used safe can be a wonderful investment with some serious discounts. We understand that the process of choosing a safe can feel overwhelming, so click here to contact us, or give us a call at (713)-561-5081, and let us help you find the perfect safe for you.

Handling the stress of a break-in is enough to worry about without having to think about replacing your valuables. Having the right safe can give you the peace of mind of knowing that your irreplaceable, or expensive, items are safe. You should also be sure that your home is equipped with high security locks to avoid the break-in in the first place. Here you’ll find an article helping you do just that.

The Benefits of a Mobile Locksmith

Today’s the day! That big meeting – important appointment – time sensitive errand and *bang.* Without realizing what just happened, your keys are now locked inside your car. So what do you do? No need to panic. We’ll help walk you through the best way to handle an auto-lock out.

How Common are Auto Lock Outs?

On average, AAA (Triple A) handles more than 4 million auto-lock outs per year, and that’s just one company. This means the actual number of automobile lock outs per year is much, much, higher. That equates to just shy of 11,000 reports per day. Now while AAA may be able to help you get back into your car, they probably aren’t the best, or most efficient, person to call when you find yourself in this situation. Locksmiths tend to handle situations like this much more often. In fact, auto-locksmith services are usually one of the most popular, and requested, service that a locksmith offers.

Now there are two main issues that would require the use of an auto-locksmith. The first is that you’ve broken, or damaged, your car key beyond repair. The second is that your perfectly working key is now trapped inside your locked car. So what are you options when this happens? Well you might be thinking that you’ll just call a tow, and tow your car to the dealership. This way, they can help you get into your car and then make you a brand new set of working keys. But this isn’t actually the best choice for cost, or efficiency, reasons.

The Real Cost of Calling a Tow.

The average automobile tow costs over $100 for a short distance, meaning something under 10 miles. (And some companies define “short distance” as less than 4 miles!) Most towing companies will have a flat “hook-up rate” of $50, and then increase the cost per mile, which means you could be looking at several hundreds of dollars depending on how far away you expect the tow to go. You also have to remember that towing companies usually have ranges, or regions, which means there is a maximum distance they will take you. This could leave you stuck, especially if the dealership is far away from where you are. But even if you get the tow to the dealership, you have to add in the cost to replace the key once you’re there. Most fob keys can run over $200 at the dealership. Factor this into what you paid for your tow, and you’re looking at a very expensive day.

Now the above mentioned very expensive day has probably also turned into a very long one as well. Living in a big city like Houston means that traffic is anywhere and everywhere you need to be. The average tow takes at least 50 minutes, and that figure isn’t accounting for traffic or standard delays. So you’ll likely be waiting for over an hour for the tow to arrive, then to hook you up, tow you away, and get to you to the dealership. However towing will only get you from point A to point B. It doesn’t actually get you back into your car. Plus, most dealerships run semi-regular business hours, which means you could spend all that time and money to arrive at a shop that’s closed until the next morning.

A Mobile Locksmith Will Save You Time and Money.

This is why calling a local mobile-locksmith is actually the absolute best option. Locksmiths are skilled and insured professionals who are trained to get you back into your car quickly. They have the skills to not only help you get back into your car, but also to make a key replacement on the spot! This means that you’ll only need to get one service, which means one bill. Not only will this save you hundreds of dollars, but most likely hours of invaluable time!

Houston Safe and Lock has been in business for over 98 years! Our just shy of a century of experience has helped us develop systems to be as skilled and efficient as possible. All of our locksmiths are licensed, bonded and insured, which gives you the peace of mind that you can trust the work, and worker. Each one has been trained to evaluate the situation and come up with the best plan to get you back in your car. We offer free estimates by calling (713) 489-1336, and our technicians are always ready to help you, no matter what time of day. You can’t predict when an emergency will happen, which is why we’re happy to offer our 24/7 locksmith services anywhere within a 50 mile radius of Houston. We offer 100% in-house staffing, which means we’re not taking your call and sending someone else. We do not use any third party contracting which means you can trust what we discuss. We won’t use any “bait-and-swtich” pricing which is, unfortunately, quite common. We will provide you a detailed estimate on the phone and get to work. We are also skilled at replacing even the most complicated car keys on site, including fobs, so do not be afraid to ask! 

As you can see, calling an auto locksmith will absolutely safe you time and money. Instead of the expensive price tag and hassle of a tow, and the dealership key fees, this rolls everything up into one. This makes it the most cost, and time, efficient option. And you know what they say; “Time is money.”

So while we all hope that this unfortunate event doesn’t happen to us, it’s always good to be prepared. Accidents happen, and Houston Safe and Lock will make this stressful event as simple, and painless, as possible.

Who Makes the Best Gun Safes?

Purchased a New Gun?

After purchasing a new gun, one of the first thoughts is, “Where can I safely store this?” With hundred of different models, brands, sizes, features and pricing, finding the right gun safe can feel like an overwhelming task. That’s why we’ve taken the time to compare some of the most popular brands and styles, so that way you don’t have to! We’ll be showing you options from AMSEC (American Security Products), Stack-On, and Honeywell to give you a battle of the brands!

Round One: Which safe Do I choose?

So one of the first questions that needs answered is, “How many guns, and what type of guns, do I need to store?” From small and hidden drawer safes, to large, free-standing units, having options is key!

Stack On: Stack On has about 77 overall options for safes, and 39 of those are specifically for guns. Having 39 different varieties to choose from mean that you can really get specific with your needs. Overall, we rate this great.

Honeywell: Honeywell has about 67 overall safes for sale, but only 12 for of those are gun specific. Having such a limited quantify means that beggars can’t be choosers, and you may have to sacrifice some of your wants and needs. Overall, we rate this poor.

AMSEC: This company knows safes! With over 200 different models company wide, and over 45 gun specific safes, AMSEC has a safe for what you need! Overall, we rate this great.

Round Two: Fire Rating.

When protecting your valuables, and valuable information, it’s important to always be prepared. That’s why fire ratings have become such and important thing to consider when choosing the correct gun safe. The national recommendation for Fire Protection is one hour. The purpose is to give you the peace of mind, in the horrible case that you ever suffer through a fire, that your valuables are safe. The absolute last thing you should be having to worry about during a fire is if your valuables are going to be ok. Of course with companies with so much inventory, there is going to be a range. Here is what we found:

Stack On: On average, most had a 30 minute fireproof rating for a heat up to 1400 degrees. Several units didn’t have any fireproof guarantee at all, although a large handful of options did have a 75 minute minute rating. Overall, we rate this average.

Honeywell: On average, many of Honeywell Safes didn’t have any fireproof protection at all! The ones that did had either a 20 minute or 30 minute fireproof rating. Simple put – that’s just not enough time. Overall, we rate this poor.

AMSEC: While two, yes – a literal two, safe options have a fireproof rating of 30 minutes, and an additional handful with a 45 and 60 minute rating,  every other safe has above a 90 minute fireproof rating!  (Remember that national recommendation of 60 minutes? AMSEC crushes that.) Significantly more than 50% of all AMSEC safes have a whopping 120 minute fireproof rating. The peace of mind that 2 hours of safety can give you is priceless. Overall, we rate this excellent – and our clear winner of this round!

Round Three: Lock Options.

Now this one is a big one when it comes to what kind of safe you need, and it is completely preference based. Some people love the secure feeling that there is only one way to open that safe, and they hold it in a single key. Others find key-only locks to be too risky and outdated (What if you lost the key?), and want something with a bit more ease. With so many varieties to choose form, let’s compare.

Stack On: Stack On offers four different styles of locks: biometric, combination, electronic, and a key system. These are all pre-determined as to which safe gets which lock. This means, you are unable to customize if you desire to have a different lock on your safe. While having options is great, it doesn’t feel like you can utilize those options to fit with the safe you want. You are stuck picking the safe with the pre-determined lock. Overall, we rate this average.

Honeywell: Honeywell offers combination dial, digital codes, and a key system, Only offering three options with their safes, and none of them are customizable. This means that you have to factor in the locking type into your description, and hope that it meats all of you other needs. With the low variety of options, and no way to customize, this just misses the mark. Overall, we rate this poor.

AMSEC: Almost every AMSEC gun safe has multiple options for locking! Close to all of their gun safes are customizable, offering a plethora of lock options for your comfort and preference. Lock options include: Simplex Mechanical Push Button, LP Rotobolt Redundant Lock, Mechanical Lock with Key-Locking Spy-Proof Dial,  Mechanical Lock with Key-Locking Front-Read Dial, Mechanical Lock with Spy proof Dial,  Mechanical Lock with Front-Read Dial, ESL5 and ESL10XL. All of their safes, except three, offer at least an ESL5 digital keypad lock. This offers the ability for multiple people to have the code to the safe, and no need to hunt for keys during an emergency. These lock options mean you wont have to sacrifice the perfect safe, because it has the wrong locking mechanism. You get to choose! Overall, we rate this excellent!

So? Which brand wins?

As you can see, the options seem to be endless when searching for the perfect gun safe. When you factor in all the brands, sizes, fireproof ratings and lock choices, the options can feel endless! But when comparing these three popular brands, there is no doubt who are clear winner is; AMSEC! With having the largest variety of gun safe options, the highest fireproof timed ratings, and the plethora of locking options, this brand really ranks supreme. 

Fortifying your castle: How high security locks stifle property-crime

Houston is growing

You may realize it on your morning commute, traffic isn’t what it was 5 years ago. Houston has been growing at a consistent 2% since 2010 and in 2019 was considered the 39th fastest growth rate in the US which is pretty staggering taking into consideration 6.8 million people already live here. Rising populations unfortunately do more than clog up freeways and surface streets. It has been shown in cities with rising population rates that typically the crime rate increases on a similar curve. Houston has settled down from its notoriously high crime rates in the 1980s and 1990s following the “Boomtown” era, but since 2015, during the peak of Houston’s recent population influx, the crime rate has been on a steady rise. Your chances of becoming the victim of a property crime are 1 in 24, at a rate of 41.25 property crimes per 1000 residents. Typically this happens because cities do not have the enforcement infrastructure to keep up with the population growth. Houston only has about 1.9 officers per 1000 residents, factoring in Mayor Turner’s promise to add 500 new officers to the force. Taking things into perspective, 2.5 officers per 1000 residents is the nation’s average, which is not a good look for a city that is in the 4th percentile for crime in the US. Yes, you read that right, 96% of the United States is safer to live in than Houston, Tx. While Texas is one of the safest states in the Union, the flip side of that coin is that Houston is double the national average in nearly all statistical categories. That would be amazing if we were talking about public education standards or pro sports statistics, not crime.

Taking proactive action is the first step in keeping yourself from being a victim of property crime or assault. While 43% of Houstonians keep a firearm in their home, that is something I would consider as a last line of defense. Fortifying the entrances to your home is something you can do to help thwart a home invasion in the first place and save yourself and your family from a potentially traumatic experience. The easiest way to shore up your entrances with standard key locking system is to upgrade the hardware itself. Your heavy duty hardwood or metal door is only as strong as the lock within it. Upgrading to what is considered high security will provide more security with its superior structural reinforcement, high quality metal body and mechanism, as well as their inability to be picked or bumped open like a standard lock can, which, in my opinion, is a high security lock’s most significant feature.

“Just googling ‘kwikset key’ you can find a bump key for less than $5 within the first 5 results.”

Lock bumping is a low-skill maneuver

It may seem like lock picking is a trade skill exclusive to locksmiths and hobbyists. This is fairly true on the surface, but there is a less skilled side of lock picking: lock bumping. You may not have ever heard of it but it is a common practice for a locksmith to open a lock as an alternative to lock picking. It consists of utilizing a “bump key” to quickly unlock a lock in a similar fashion to lock picks, albeit much more simple. While lock picking is an artful skill, lock bumping is not. Alternatively, lock picking is a tedious task that usually requires multiple tools while lock bumping is a very quick procedure with only one tool needed. The practice started as a work-around for the novice locksmith who may waste a lot of time trying to pick a lock that could easily be bumped but, due to its ease of accessibility, the skill of lock bumping has permeated itself into criminal culture. It really is something learned in burglary 101. You may be asking what it means to bump a lock. Bumping a lock is a form of lock manipulation that uses a jaggedly cut key lightly “bumped” into the keyway causing the jagged cuts to briefly push the pins above the sheer line in the lock allowing the user to turn the key and unlock the lock. Just like lock picking, lock bumping leaves virtually zero evidence of break in because there was no forced entry. Bumping a lock does not damage anything and even to a trained eye it is almost impossible to tell if a lock has been bumped open before.

Bumping a lock does not damage anything and even to a trained eye it is almost impossible to tell if a lock has been bumped open before.

In my opinion the worst part is that in a residential setting, there are two commonly, almost exclusively, used keyways; Schlage and Kwikset. Seemingly unrelated brands like Baldwin or “smart lock” brands like Samsung and Ring will utilize these 2 keyways purely out of convenience, as these two keyways are largely seen as industry standard. So by carrying just 2 bump keys, someone can break into the vast majority of homes with zero signs of forced entry. This is unbelievably frightening because it is an extremely easy skill to learn. Video tutorials are all over YouTube and it only takes about a half hour or so of practice to become somewhat proficient. No reputable locksmith or key shop would ever sell a bump key to the general public, but unfortunately they are readily available all over the internet and do not cost much more than a regular key blank does. Now while this has always been a “trick-of-the-trade” easy alternative to lock-picking, we now live in the internet era and tools as well as tutorials are available to everybody. Just googling “kwikset key” you can find a bump key for less than $5 within the first 5 results. Something else to consider about this is that even if you have a home alarm system and it goes off when there is a burglary, the responding officer is likely to not investigate any further than placing a sticker on your door if there are zero signs of forced entry, as the majority of home alarm alerts are accidentally triggered anyway. Insurance companies will treat it the same way. Without signs of forced entry, a home insurance company is not liable to cover your assets. This places many people in terrible positions all because their burglar was smart enough to use YouTube. Maybe you see this as an insane theoretical but it is a real threat when it comes to break-ins. Even so, being pick and bump proof is just one of the great features that high security locks have in comparison to standard security hardware and its strength and structural integrity are maybe just as important if not more so because it helps prevent forced entry.

Shop smart when buying locks

The quality of high security far exceeds anything you could find at a general hardware or home improvement store. Schlage and Kwikset are both built with inferior grade metal and less structural integrity than even your most basic high security lock. A lock’s strength and integrity are typically graded on a scale from 3 to 1 based on standard guidelines put into place by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). On this scale grade 3 is considered the lowest quality being the worst while grade 1 is the highest quality. Most Schlage or Kwikset hardware are going to be either grade 2 or 3. Conversely, standard high security hardware typically exceeds grade 1 requirements for residential applications. What does this mean? Simply put it makes it substantially harder for a burglar to kick down your door or smashing off the lock with blunt force. They are designed to take abuse. Their hardened outer shell and internal structural make for a heavy duty piece of hardware that is not easily defeated.

The last thing to understand about high security locks is that they operate on restricted keyways. Key restriction is a major facet of what makes high security locks so valuable and worthwhile. Simply put, only authorized users may acquire additional copies of keys. You can not get copies of high security keys at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Ace hardware but instead only from the locksmith shop who facilitated the installation of your high security hardware. When the locks are installed, your specific key cuts are kept in a file with the locksmith who provided the installation service. If a copy of the key is needed, it can only come from the original installer and they must be received in person with a photo ID that matches the file. Typically two or three people will be on a file to prevent issues making copies if the primary contact on the file is unavailable, but nobody outside of those two or three people will be able to obtain copies of your high security keys. This is perfect if you want to distribute keys to your extended family, children, or even your gardener without having any idea of how many keys are in circulation. The file system is also perfect for keeping track of who made copies of the keys, how many they bought, and when they bought them. If you’re ever nervous about missing keys you can call your locksmith and verify how many keys have been distributed since the installation in order to verify you still have track of all of them.

Simply put, only authorized users may acquire additional copies of keys. You can not get copies of high security keys at Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Ace hardware but instead only from the locksmith shop who facilitated the installation of your high security hardware.

Install anywhere you need extra security

I can already hear you thinking “I like the idea of high security hardware and key restriction, but I would want it on the front door of my business.” Fret not. There is high security hardware for nearly every application, whether you want to put them around your home, on your business, or outside on your community’s pool gate. In most instances, the most ideal hardware applicable will be Medeco or Mul-t-lock. Although the internal construction of the lock is similar, Medeco and Mul-t-lock use vastly different technologies to operate the key cylinder. Medeco uses a bi-axial cut key, meaning that the key’s cuts are often at inverse angles and the lock itself requires proprietary angled pins to match with each unique key. Mul-t-lock is a side cut dimple key. The cuts of the key are on each side, rather than the top, which also makes Mul-t-lock keys reversible.

High security locks are an important commodity. These days with everything that is going on you truly can never be too safe. If you are interested in a quote on a high security hardware installation please feel free to call Houston Safe and Lock to book an appointment. We are authorized dealers of both Medeco and Mul-t-lock and have a long history of serving the Houston area for over 40 years.