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Thread: How do you prevent theft/break-ins at your shop?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Brush Prairie, WA

    How do you prevent theft/break-ins at your shop?

    I'm cleaning up the last of the mess from the addition of a built-in DC/Compressor closet in the shop, and I'm looking around before I shut off the lights.

    There are a LOT of expensive tools in there. And a lot of stuff that's really got a lot of meaning to me - "ancestral tools", as it were. And...well...we live in a fairly rural area, but some neighbors just had their house broken in to by tweakers looking for stuff to make a quick buck. Someone with a pry bar could get through my steel shop door, and the shop's a good 50 yards from the house.

    Other than "WARNING: LOOSE SNAKES!" on the do you prevent theft? We don't want a security light for obvious waste/light pollution issues, alarm? Motion-detecting lights? Full blown shop security system?

    Granted, most of the big stuff I think is fairly safe. Trying to lug a PM2k away on your back would cause a racket, but the hand tools...a few trips through the woods, and I'm out thousands. Festool stuff - it's light and can grow legs. We have good insurance, and fairly recent "shop video" where I have gone through the shop for an hour with the HD camcorder and recorded every serial number, make, model I could find, along with long shots inside each drawer of every tool box, cabinet and cubby. That's mostly for "after-the-fact" theft, though. I'd rather prevent it.

    As a theft deterrent, is etching a good idea? Is it feasible to do yourself? (Not etch yourself, do the work yourself...ouch!) Cold stamping some sort of ID number into things? Buying a cheap engraver and trying to write fuzzy ID numbers into iron doesn't sound like a great deal of fun.

    So...what do YOU do?

    (As an aside, it occurs to me that someone nefarious could actually use this data. I don't mean, "Which door has an alarm on it and what's the code?" I mean, in general, what do you do to feel safe, and has it worked?)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    I did go to the expense of purchasing an alarm system for my shop. I found a very good used system on ebay about 5 yrs ago, it came with the orginial manual and door sensors, window sensors, motion senors,ect... I had to go to Radio Shack and purchase wiring for the system but the system came complete. If you decide to go this route make sure you check with your city / county officials as I live in the city and was required to purchase a permit for the alarm system which has to be renewed every 2 years.

  3. #3
    If you have a big shop and good old junkyard dog will do very well.

    My home shop is just locked and has bars on the only window in it.

    My dad had a really big shop for the backhoe and dump trucks and all of that stuff. He had a dog that stayed in the shop at night, never was broke into. Now the building next door was hit a few times but never dad's shop.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Central California
    There are a number of things that you can do to make your shop (or house) more secure. Keeping shrubs that are close to the shop, etc trimmed up to reduce hiding places, add lighting, whether motion activated or not, dogs are controversial as to their actual worth and balancing them with liability. I personally like them for added security.
    See if you have a "Farm Watch" or "Neighborhood Watch" organization in your county, they can provide lots of tips and may even come out for a security consult at no cost. Check with your Sheriffs Dept.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Coastal Virginia
    Here's a free tip about thieves; they don't like attention, noise or anything with teeth!

    A dog with a big bark and the bigger the better is the best solution. The down side is the matinenance... you have to feed it and it leaves little presents all over you have to clean up. A more user friendly solution is a good motion light system and a very loud alarm.

    Don't waste your money on a monitored alarm, especially a silent one. The only thing monitored alarms do is give you a false sense of security. The dirty truth about alarm companies is most don't call the police directly. Most alarm activations are accidental so the alarm company tries to call you so see if you set it off by accident. When they don't get a response on your home phone they might even call your cell phone. As a last resort they call the police. 30 minute elapsed times are common and I've seen over 4 hours. If your alarm has constant false alarms they are even more hesitant to call police.

    Thieves are in and out in less than 5 min, usually under 3. Even if your monitored alarm Co manages to call the police within 5 min, the dispatcher has take the phone call, get the information and call the officer via radio. 2-3 min at the minimum. We're up to about 8 min now. The officer has to then drive to your house which is going to take him at least 5min if you're real lucky. Probably more, especially if you're in a rural area were your response time might be gauged on a calendar. Did I mention 99.9% of all alarms are false? Here's another secret, LE won't run lights and siren to your alarm. there's just too many false alarms to jeopardize the public running lights and siren to what in all likelihood is a false activation. It's hard to explain to a family why you killed mom and dad responding to a false alarm, not to mention expensive to pay off the law suit. Back on track, locally, in a metropolitan area, our LE response times are 4 -6 min average. So you're up to 15 min or so since your alarm activated (on a good day) usually much longer. Did I mention thieves are in and out in less than 5 min? The bottom line is all you accomplish is spending a lot of money for your monthly alarm fee just to find out your stuff is missing. Granted, some times things work out perfect and LE actually catches someone, but you can chalk that up to dumb luck and a LE being in the right place at the right time. Don't even think it's the norm, this ain't TV and the cops don't solve every case in 30 min. IF you're lucky the report will be done in 30 min.

    A good inventory with serial numbers is much more useful.

    Last edited by M Toupin; 11-07-2008 at 1:36 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Monroe, MI
    I have a full security system tied into the house's system. I set it every time I lock up, even if I'm planning to go out later. Its a separate partition from the house, so it is armed even when we are home when I'm not out there. My shop is also very visible to our next door neighbors.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Mid Missouri (Brazito/Henley)
    Thieves go for the easy ones first. Lighting would be the first deterrent. The bill for a sodium light is cheap compared to tool replacement, not to mention the damage of a break in. A big dog is also cheap insurance. An alarm system that turns on lights and noise will scare the tweakers away. Motion sensor lights are a good cheap investment. In a secluded rural area, any deterrent is better than none. "Warning stickers" and foil tape on your doors and windows will make thieves wary, even if the system is not installed. Just don't make it easy for thieves!
    [/SIGPIC]Necessisity is the Mother of Invention, But If it Ain't Broke don't Fix It !!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Courtenay BC Canada
    +1 on the motion lights.

    An alarm system which is attached to a horn is a good idea. Theives wont know if the police are on the way but a horn which is too loud to tolerate in the shop would make them nervous.

  9. #9
    Sears at one time sold signs and stickers along with alarm systems, I aways thought that a sign on your front lawn and some at your doors was a good cheap way to scar crooks away..

    a blinking red light in the shop
    or just a motion detector alarm which could be just the box type you just plug in and have so long to turn it off before it sounds, to a full blown alarm system
    aka rarebear - Hand Planes 101 - RexMill - The Resource

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    South Alabama
    Live next door to 2 federal agents
    One of them stays at home most of the time doing research for background investigations.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Rochester, NY
    I try to keep in shape and give really dirty looks to anyone who drives by that I don't know. ...that and having a house full of people that keep the house functioning nearly 24/7 doesn't hurt either!
    Happiness is like wetting your pants...everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth....

  12. #12
    Have you thought of adding, in addition to an alarm and lights, a "tool crib" for the expensive stuff? If its under lock and key, and most certainly won't take the time to break into a locked closet while the alarm is going off...

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Greenville, South Carolina
    I put in a motion sensor alarm in my shop which sets off a LOUD alarm horn. Also, have motion sensor lights in the front of the shop. (A separate shop, but only about 50 feet from the house.)

    I measure three times and still mess it up.

  14. Question

    Motion lights work well. A locked gate to the property helps. I have a dog with a doggie door so he has access to the property.
    On a side note. I was going to post this as a thread but this is a similar topic. I had a machine for sale on CL a couple of weeks ago. Just my phone # listed as contact info. Guy calls ask very little about the machine? Say whats your address I say well you can meet me and I will show you how to get to my shop. But I need YOUR DRIVERS LISCENSE and another ID with the same address on it before you see my shop. Never heard from him again. I never have done that before. But I just said it, the guy sounded shady. Just talking to him I got a bad vibe and he had NO IDEA what the machine does. I think I might have dodged a bullitt

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Brush Prairie, WA


    That is exactly what I was talking about, James. I've had countless people out from Craigslist in the past couple of years. Our place is hard to find, and quite a way from the city, so you have to really want to come out...most likely 9/10 who come out couldn't find it again.

    But one thing that concerns me, aside from the local random thieves, is the folks from Craigslist who may or may not have bad intentions.

    This reminds me of a CL visit from a couple of years ago. I had a bad day with the metal machining - broke several nice end mills trying to mill up a little brass engine, so, with only a couple of thousand invested in the metal equipment, but with a full complement of machining tools, threw the whole lot of mill/lathe/saws/handtools/metal on CL for, I think, $4500 late one night.

    Within minutes (around 10pm), I got a call from a guy who said, "I have cash, I HAVE to do it tonight, I'll be there in a bit." Sounded like a nice enough young guy, so I gave him directions. 2 HOURS later he called and said he was 1/2 way there, would be about another hour. At about 2 or 3am, this huge new diesel dually truck with a long flatbed rolled on to our property. I was stunned when 5 or 6 guys got out, all over 6'4", full of mohawks and tattoos and piercings, and we all sorta stood there for a minute in the dead silence and moonlight - wasn't a word spoken. I thought to myself, "Self...this is it. They're going to leave me for dead and take everything. I just hope my wife can get to a neighbors while I'm making noise." I started taking slow deep breaths to get the muscles ready to start swinging and at least make a showing of myself...

    Then one of them stepped forward and stuck his hand out, "I'm Todd...can we see the stuff?" That sort of broke the horrid tension, and I said, "Dude. What the <beep>?" They laughed a bit as Todd told the story and we walked down to the shop. Turns out they were a professional paintball team with some property a few hours away. They were leaving the next morning on another tour of the country, and had decided that instead of selling their ideas (new gun designs, trigger setups, equipment) to the paintball manufacturers, where they made 5%, they would, instead, sell actual mockups to the companies, where they made more like 25%. Apparently they'd made well over 200k that year alone just on the ideas.

    We spent a couple hours digging through the shop, with them holding up tools (hammers, hacksaws, screwdrivers, straightedges) and asking, "What's this? How much?" before throwing them on the trailer. They just kept peeling $100 bills off of their rolls and handing them over, as they loaded up half my shop. They left near dawn with a trailer full of tools I didn't want. Turned out they were all REALLY nice, very honest guys, but it could have seriously gone so much worse. It was a lesson on what most certainly could go wrong.

    So, that brings me back to the shop. I wonder about inviting anyone I don't know out here. Unfortunately, way too many people have come out for me to ever keep track of them. I have names/numbers in email, but I doubt the police are going to track down 100+ people who've been out here in the past few years and ask them if they stole stuff. Maybe I'll start meeting people in town.

    Anyhow. Great suggestions thus far. We do have a couple of dogs - both of whom would bite if we weren't around. We have gates to the house, and the shop is up a long, steep, grassy slope that requires 4x4, skill and knowledge to get up to. But I think a security system is in order. A few hundred dollars on lights, alarms and a keypad would be a great investment. Luckily there are no windows in the shop, with only a single steel overhead door and a single steel entry door, and it doesn't look like much from the outside. So you'd have to know me or the shop to know that it's worthwhile to bust in.

    I like the idea of a lock box for the expensiver stuff, too. I could put some shelves in that closet and add one heck of a large hasp/lock to the solid-core door. Maybe with a klaxon blaring and lights on, someone wouldn't take the time to try to break into that.

    And, as someone suggested, I'll talk to my insurance guy - maybe have him out for a visit, as it's been awhile since we updated the policy - I think the last photos he has ($50k on contents for the shop, I think) are several years old.

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