In the United States, a property crime occurs every 3 seconds. Even in light of there being more than 321.4 million living souls in the United States as of last July, a property crime every 3 seconds is still an alarming number in this category of crime.

According to, considering the population of Harker Heights, the chances of being the victim of a property crime in Harker Heights is 1 in 30.

Property crime in Harker Heights is on par with the state averages, but 19 percent higher than the national average.

This statistic is somewhat skewed because of the nature of the transient nighttime population of Harker Heights, which is not taken into consideration by those who gather these statistics.

Additionally, property crimes are higher in some areas of the city than in others. Those who reside in softer crime areas are less likely to be victimized than the 1 in 30 statistic suggests.

Thieves, robbers and burglars will always exist, so long as those people remain lazy, uneducated, without ambition and totally immoral. These are the people who choose crime over legitimate employment and personal responsibility.

I purposely omitted “conscienceless” as a contributor to criminal behavior, because I believe everyone has a conscience to some degree.

I came to this conclusion during my career as a polygraph examiner in the course of appealing to the conscience of the polygraph candidate.

Even those who claimed to have no conscience or sense of right and wrong, were unable to explain why they ran or otherwise evaded detection after committing a crime.

As technological advances in crime prevention emerge, the criminal seeks innovative methods for limiting or defeating those advances, usually with considerable success.

Last week, I wrote of ways to deter or prevent being victimized by a burglar or those who engage in home invasion robberies and burglaries. It was suggested that sturdy solid-core doors, securely installed and quality locks are paramount in providing protection against home invasions. The other part of the equation is common sense.

Knowing who is at your door before you open it is a necessary preventive measure. Magnification peepholes and interior/exterior intercoms provide that security. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

While good locks are a preventive plus, they are not infallible. Locks can be defeated, even the best quality of the common national brands: Master Lock, Dexter, Schlage, Kwikset and Weiser. This has become a lock industry issue and all of them have developed or are in the process of developing hardware to prevent bumping.

Oddly, the older locks in these brands are better at preventing compromise than the newer, cleaner ones. However, none of these are exempt from being defeated by “bumping.”

“Lock bumping” is a technique for opening a tumbler lock using a specially made bump key, 999 key or rapping key. A bump key must correspond to the target brand lock to function properly.

Despite state and federal laws against distributing “locksmithing devices” to anyone other than manufacturers and persons with a recognized legal purpose, bumping keys can be purchased over the Internet.

At one site I researched, a set of bumping keys for all five most popular locks can be purchased for less that $18. It is because of the Internet that this practice is growing.

A bump key is a key cut to the maximum depth (999) and is capable of opening approximately 90 percent of locks. As with any other locking picking technique, bumping requires time and patience to master. A career criminal will devote the time and patience to mastering this technique, rather than seeking legitimate wage earning opportunities.

Bumping is not new. This technique has been around and used for more than half a century by locksmiths. Here’s how it works.

A 999 key is inserted as far as possible into the key slot and struck on the end to force the tumbler above the shear line for a fraction of a second, allowing the lock to be opened.

According to National Crime prevention Council (NCPC) statistics, nearly two of three break-ins occur with no signs of forced entry. This becomes an issue with insurance companies regarding their willingness to pay claims.

As there is no way to determine the actual break-in method of a non-forced entry burglary, it would be impossible to lay the blame at the feet of the bump key.

Door locks are but one way to deter criminals. Residents can protect their homes by using interior and exterior lighting, using alarm systems, motion detectors and a very large and boisterous dog.

At this point, the only truly bump-proof locks are an electronic keypad and locks with “Smartkey,” which incorporates a patented side locking bar that replaces traditional tumbler designs.

John Vander WERFF is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, with a decade in city and county law enforcement and 20 years with state police.

John Vander Werff is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and a Copperas Cove resident.​

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