Ingenuity can be just as vital as high-tech and beefy security systems when it comes to keeping crooks out of your home.
At least that's the opinion of Jordan Frankel, vice president of Global Security Experts, which operates an office in Doraville.
Frankel, a security consultant for nearly two decades, has invented products such as a security film for windows, and a virtually kick-proof plate installed at the foot of doors, designed to thwart burglars and home-invaders. He travels widely training officers and advising neighborhood associations, stressing that home security doesn't have to come at a steep price.
Despite recent FBI data showing a three-year decline in most crime categories nationwide, Frankel said home-invasions are trending upward, a byproduct of sour economic times.
"The economy is so bad, the typical home-invader is now stealing items and cash to put food on their own table," Frankel said in a recent interview. "This is not something our government and law enforcement typically wants to report, because it's such a violent crime. With victims, there is such a psychological, brutal trail left behind."
Gwinnett's largest police force, like most, lumps home-invasion robberies in with commercial and other robberies because victims are present, said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Brian Kelly.
In the last two years, total robberies have continued to dip in Gwinnett. Between 2007 and 2009, robberies dropped by nearly 3 percent and almost 9 percent the latter year, according to police statistics.
But anecdotal evidence shows that some home-invaders have turned to brazen means in the last year.
In at least four cases, armed gunmen either posed or announced themselves as police, FBI agents or other law enforcement in the process of overpowering unsuspecting victims in Gwinnett homes. Experts stress that most home-invasions are not random and usually occur between drug-traffickers.
Residential burglaries, the most commonly reported criminal act in Gwinnett alongside vehicle break-ins, spiked nearly 10 percent between 2007 and 2008. The following year, the crime dipped more than 7 percent through November, statistics show.
In that three-year time span, Gwinnett police handled more than 12,000 reports of homes being broken into.
Frankel stressed that a little imagination can go a long way, offering the kind of home-security tips that shouldn't break the bank. For instance:
* Leave a large pair of men's boots (size 13 or larger, readily available at most Goodwill stores) and a large water bowl on the doorstep, even if no man or dog lives there.
"It serves as a psychological deterrent," Frankel said. "You now become less of a target and they want to skip your house."
* Trim shrubbery that's close to the walls of a home, where intruders can hide and plan an attack.
* Conceal phone wires. Residential wires are typically at ground level and, when cut, can kill power to alarm systems and hamper outside communications.
"You want to hide those wires -- you want to mask them with some kind of facade. That's very key," Frankel said.
* With an alarm system, have a cellular backup dialer in case power lines are cut. The service usually costs about $300, a one-time expense for installation.
* Opt for motion and perimeter lighting.
"Most Americans think that having perimeter lighting is (imperative)," he said. "By having lights on all the time, the criminal can see their way around. Motion-detection lighting will startle the intruder. We suggest a combination of the two."
* Reinforce door hinges by removing factory screws and installing bigger ones (minimum 2.5 to 3 inches) that hit the stud.
* Set up a closet as a mock safe room, in the event of a home-invasion.
* A stubborn dead-bolt lock is good, but a strong door frame is better.
"Most home invasions take place through the front door," Frankel said. "It takes a couple of seconds for the average person to kick a door in. The dead bolt is only as good as the door around that door frame."
For more crime-prevention tips or information on alternative home security products, visit www.globalsecurityexperts.com