Security - Adding Security to your Historic Home

Feeling safe in an old house can present problems. Windows and doors can be vulnerable, lighting can be minimal, latches don't operate. Here are a few ways to help secure your historic home without affecting its historic integrity.

  • Rather than installing a huge floodlight with a motion detector in the front of your home, use landscape lighting. It can be attractive, can be placed in multiple locations that would otherwise be dark, is affordable, and is very effective for making intruders feel vulnerable. Look for LED landscape lighting for low operating cost and bright illumination.

  • Instead of adding a standard security door from the big-box, consider consulting Planning about what alternatives would be considered compatible. Many Spanish-style houses have original ornamental iron-work - there are modern replacements that would be acceptable for many architectural styles. A prop that fits under the doorknob can help secure vulnerable French doors or doors that are seldom used, such as basement or service porch doors. Beware of electronic door locks - the keys can be hacked.

  • Do not add a fence, wall or hedge in the front of your house. Fences, walls and hedges afford intruders cover for illegal entry and a place to lay in wait for you and for pedestrians. Also, the Los Angeles Municipal Code will only allow fences 42" or less forward of the front plane of the house - easily hopped by anyone and basically only decorative. And fences are discouraged in the Preservation Plan as historically incompatible based on photographic evidence from the period of construction, and are rarely approved by the HPOZ Board. Front yard barriers only protect your front lawn, not your house. Statistically, intruders enter most often at the rear or side of the house, and often gain access from the property behind the victim by scaling the back fence without being seen. Your security dollars are best spent on rear barriers: walls and sturdy fences as high as possible, aggressive security lighting, and cameras. Fences and walls can be as high as 6' anywhere behind the plane of the front facade. Rear wooden fences require no permit, masonry walls require permits and inspections, and permits for 8' rear walls can be obtained. Driveway gates should be set back as far from the front plane as possible, but can be an imposing 6' high. If in doubt, check with Planning to make sure that street-visibility is not an issue before planning a fence, wall, hedge or driveway gate. Corner lots are a special case, and have different standards - contact Planning.

  • Use electronic security rather than burglar bars. Burglar bars are not only unsightly, but dangerous, even with quick releases, which can rust and jam. If you absolutely must have burglar bars, interior bars are available. Maintain and replace all the interior window latches. 8 mil security window film makes window glass much more secure, is very affordable, and can be installed by the homeowner.

  • Get a security camera/doorbell like Ring, which alerts you to any intrusion on your smart phone, allows you to speak to the person (even if you aren't really home), video-records the intruder, and saves the recording to the Cloud, and includes "Live View," a feature that lets you activate the camera remotely from your phone without a motion trigger. Ring and LAPD instituted a pilot program with Wilshire Park, giving away a free Ring to anyone who signed up. Wilshire Park's Ring contact, Taylor Kurosaki, can be reached by following this link, and Taylor will get you signed up. Our crime rate dropped by 50% almost immediately. Intruders see the Ring, realize they are being recorded, and leave. With all the "knock-knock" burglars, two-way communication is a great deterrent. Contact Ring for more information on the pilot program, or shop for a product with similar attributes. Ring is always adding new devices, including hard-wired flood lights with sirens and two-way communication. Installing cameras in multiple places is very effective.

  • Cameras not in the budget? A battery operated, motion activated driveway alarm can let you know when someone is casing your side windows, messing with your car, going through your garbage, or answering nature's call. And if you place the receiver close to the driveway-side windows, your visitor will hear the alarm and realize they have been detected, even when you aren't home. Good for side yards too. About $15 on Amazon.

  • Get a security system. Front Point, Simply Safe and many other companies will customize a security system at a very reasonable price which you can install yourself. Cellular-technology based, there is no wiring, can be easily expanded, and the system goes with you when you move. A monthly fee will be charged, and you can assign monitoring to a patrol company. Don't forget to register with the City for a license.

  • If you are still scared, ADT and SSA Security offer local private security patrols. These security officers can do vacation watch, escort you in, be your alarm monitor contact, and will show up for minor things when the police can't. Not cheap, but when you are scared, they seem like a bargain.