In the U.S., security for your home, condo, and apartment primarily occurs outside your domicile and is provided by the local police.
In Los Angeles, professional thieves working your neighborhood, breaking into homes, and stealing things are actively tracked down and caught by the police. In the U.S., burglar alarms, fancy locks, high security steel doors, safes, security cameras, etc. are generally not needed and most people don’t bother with them. Home burglary is not a much of a problem and insurance is widely available and affordable (because break ins are rare).
In Thailand, security is mostly a private affair with the police contributing little to protecting your home from break in. After the fact, Thai police generally don’t do anything when there is a break in and, once the break in has occurred, calling the police is mostly an exercise in futility. Before the fact, relying on the police to track down and jail crews of professionals working the area is a pipe dream in Thailand. In Thailand, you take care of the physical security of your home and personal belongings.
In most large condos, apartments, and housing complexes, the first line of defense are what amounts to private police — the private guards and/or a security company hired by the owners through the association. Many expats will tell you the security guards are worthless because they are the ones who will be breaking into your home but, like much expat “wisdom”, its just not true.
In the small apartments many expats of modest means live in, the security guards may be untrustworthy because they are not directly employed and monitored by the residents. In the larger primarily Thai owned condos and developments, the guards prevent 99.9% of the theft by keeping track of people entering and exiting and, more importantly, people leaving with large heavy items like large screen TV’s, major appliances, etc. The guards get to know the residents and strangers leaving with large expensive items are stopped.
When a theft does occur in one of these complexes there are repercussions for the guards and it is not uncommon for the security company to lose their contract and the guards becoming unemployed en masse after a major theft.
What you find in the Thai owned condos and developments is that the Thai owners are very concerned about break ins and theft and closely monitor and supervise the guards entrusted with watching the property.
The second line of defense is provided by resident’s themselves.
Walk through any large primarily Thai housing development or condo complex and you will see higher grade locks and security hardware than you typically see even in a major city such as Los Angeles. The houses in many L.A. neighborhoods, even the more upscale ones, are secured with inexpensive locks and are easily entered. Visit the local home improvement stores, Home Depot and Lowes, and the door locks for sale are pretty low grade.
Visit the Bangkok home improvement stores, like Boonthavorn and Homepro, and the door locks for sale include some expensive and high grade options. This is more surprising than it looks given the income disparity between middle class Thais and middle class Angeleans. Several thousand baht for a high quality door lock is a major expenditure for most middle class Thais that own houses and upscale condos and you can be sure they aren’t spending the money neutralizing imaginary threats.
Pictured below is a high grade security lock frequently seen in the more upscale developments and condos that is for sale at Homepro in Bangkok.
This is a picture of the lock cylinder.
The quality is evident. The bolts have two locking positions- halfway extended and fully extended and there are three bolts that engage a large deep slot cut into the jamb.
A large slot needs to be routered into the door so that the lock mechanism can be inserted and a corresponding large slot needs to be routered into the jamb. Although this can be down with a hammer and chisel, a router with a special jig is typically used by dedicated lock installers. When its finished, the bolts extend very deep into the jamb and the bolt mechanism is also embedded deep into the door.
The mechanism, machining, and fit and finish are all first rate and if you are into expensive tools and machinery, the whole device is a cool piece of kit that has the feel of an expensive Swiss watch.
Special key blanks are used to prevent unauthorized key duplication with a normal key cutting machine.
Availability of the blanks is supposed to be restricted to authorized outlets and special machinery is needed to duplicate them.
When you want copies, you take out the cylinder or take a plastic card with the lock code on it to the locksmith who has access to the blanks. The cylinder is designed to be easily removable and the lock can be re-keyed if necessary, e.g. you lose control of one of the keys when a maid or girlfriend leaves under unhappy circumstances.
The removable cylinder also allows the lock to be re-keyed without a visit from the locksmith. By removing one screw the cylinder can be taken out and taken down to the local lock shop for re-keying.
This lock costs about 4000THB plus 500 THB for installation.
Extra keys from Homepro are 450 baht each.
This is the other end of the lock spectrum – a cheap 500 THB lock. The lock housing is made of cheap stamped steel and the key is an old style easily duplicated skeleton key. Everything is made of cheap pot metal stampings with rough corners and jagged edges. The locking bolts extend less than an inch into the jamb and can be easily forced as a result. A good kick and this lock is likely to give way.
The preferred way of securing your home or condo is a two lock setup (on the right).
The typical one lock setup (on the left) is problematical because once you’ve given away the key, there is no way to exclude access to the recipient.
Notice that two lock door has been pried open in the past. This wouldn’t have been possible with a top quality lock where the lock and the bolts are deeply embedded in the door but was possible with the cheap doorknob lock.
With a two lock setup, one set of keys is for the maid and girlfriends and the second set yours exclusively.
This allows the maid and girlfriends who have a key to the first lock to get in when you want them to be able to get in.
When you want to restrict access, you lock the second lock preventing anyone but yourself from opening the door.
When the maid is scheduled to visit but you are not going to be home, you can leave your lock unlocked and the maid can get in by herself and secure the door when she leaves.
If your girlfriend is coming over and you won’t be home when she arrives, leave your lock unlocked and she can get in.
When you don’t want anyone gaining access, lock your lock and their key is rendered effectively useless.
The two lock setup also allows you to immediately deny access in an emergency, e.g. dealing with a spurned Thai girl on the warpath.
If you break up with your girlfriend and are worried about her coming back to your place and trashing it in a jealous rage, you can lock the second lock effectively disarming her key.
You don’t have to ask for the return of her key and you can immediately lock her out for as long as necessary.