Locksmithing/Security Information

Key Duplication

If you need a duplicate key, the usual process is to take the key to a hardware store where they have a key duplicating machine. Then, if they have the proper blank key, they will insert your old key and the new key blank into the machine and it will make a fairly good copy of the old key.

This is like making a copy of a cassette tape, or taking a photo of a photograph. The copy may be almost as good as the original, but not quite. If you copy another copy, then eventually the key will not work, or may work with difficulty.

Code Cutting

There is another method of making a key, usually available only to locksmiths. Each lock manufacturer has standards they follow about the spacing and depths of the notches on the key. By analyzing the key you have, a locksmith can probably make a code cut key. This key will be just as good as the original key. It is like copying a CD or DVD … the duplicate is just like the original. In fact, if the key you have is a duplicate, a code cut key could be *better* than the key you have.

Key Blanks

There are thousands of different key blanks. Anyone who makes keys in Belize will only have the most common keys, because nobody can afford to stock every kind of key there is.

Lock Selection

Most door locks in Belize (or in the US, for that matter) are either made by *Kwikset*, or they are compatible with that company’s locks. Most of these locks are inexpensive, and provide less security than more expensive locks.

The trouble is, that to get much better security, you need to spend a lot more money for a lock. Medium security home or business locks will cost in the neighborhood of Bz$100, and high security locks can exceed Bz$1000.

Also, high security locks often use key blanks that cannot be duplicated locally. If you lose a key, it might have to be ordered from the US, require proof of ownership, and may cost Bz$30 or more.

Key in Knob

A key-in-knob lock is one that has the lock in the center of the doorknob. These usually have a button on the inside that is turned or pushed in to lock or unlock the door. They usually also latch or even lock when the door is pulled shut.

Handlesets

A fancier (and usually a little more expensive) lock has a lever that turns, or a fixed handle with a lever you press to open the door. There is a lock either in the level or near the handle.

Deadbolts

A deadbolt is a lock that simply locks or unlocks. Deadbolts are usually a supplement to a key-in-knob or handleset.

There are two major kinds of deadbolts. One is single cylinder and the other is double cylinder. The single cylinder type has a key on the outside and a thumbturn or other hand device on the inside. The double cylinder type uses a key on the outside and on the inside. The double cylinder is more expensive because it is really two locks connected. It means that if you leave your house and you lock the deadlock, if someone breaks in through a window, they cannot just open the door and carry large items out.

One warning: if you do use a double-cylinder lock, you should never lock it and remove the key if there is anyone inside the house. If you have a fire you might not be able to get to your keys and then you could be trapped inside the house. Even if you have a concrete house, you probably have enough combustible items to produce enough smoke to kill a person trapped inside.

Padlocks

Common padlocks are low security, and are not well protected against the weather. There are padlocks that are higher security, more resistant to weather, and/or can be rekeyed, perhaps even to the same key you use for your house. These are, of course, more expensive.

For inexpensive padlocks, if you want them keyed alike, you should buy them in a set. We have seen sets of up to 6 padlocks all keyed alike.

Lock Maintenance

Locks should be cleaned, inspected, and lubricated at least once every year or two. If the lock is exposed to weather (rain, blowing marl, etc.) then the maintenance should be more often. I recommend you get some 3-in-1 or light oil, and put a little of it onto a key. Then put the key into the lock and operate the key several times.

Lock Rekeying

When you buy locks for your home, you can find kits that have two key-in-lock doorknobs and two deadbolts in a kit, all keyed alike. A locksmith can open most common locks and change them so they all use the same key.

Kwikset SmartKey Locks

If you are installing new door locks, or replacing old ones, I would recommend Kwikset SmartKey locks. You can get them from larger suppliers like Benny’s, or if you have times, you can order them from Amazon. These locks are harder to pick, and you can re-key the lock yourself.

This means that if you lose your keys, you could just get another (different) key, make duplicates, and rekey your locks to accept the new key. If you have a housesitter, you could rekey the locks for while you’re gone, and then rekey them back to your normal keys when you get back home.

Masterkeying

For a hotel, a school, a large business, or anyone else with a lot of locks, you might want to have some locks keyed alike, while the owners or administrators have master keys that open all the locks. Or you might have guest keys that open only their own room, but any guest key will open the outside gate or the key to the exercise room.

Lockouts

Locks are designed to keep people out. But what if you have a legitimate need to get in, and you do not have a key, or the key you have does not work? A locksmith is trained to be able to get you back into your house or business with as little damage or expense as possible.

Lock Picking

Lock picking is a technique, using special tools, to open the lock without a key. It isn’t as easy as you see it in the movies, but it can often be done unless the lock is a high security type lock.

Drilling

If lock picking does not work, or you can’t find anyone who can do it, the next step is either forced entry into the house or car, or drilling the lock. Some contractors may be able to drill out the center part of the lock cylinder. It ruins the lock, of course, but may be less damage than breaking a window and/or burglar bars.

Auto Lockouts

Some auto mechanics have tools and/or techniques to get you into a car where you have no key (or perhaps they are locked inside). Working with auto locks takes a much different set of tools and techniques.

Security Concerns

Security is all about smart thinking and compromise. The compromise is that you probably cannot afford the highest security possible. The smart thinking is in knowing what to do that adds the most security for a reasonable cost, in money and effort.

First, make sure that you are not the most attractive target in the area. You may be able to hide or (better) get rid of some luxury items that tell everyone who passes by that you have lots of money. You can avoid wearing expensive jewelry.

Second, take a few extra seconds to lock doors, activate alarms, etc. Recently in Corozal we have had some daylight robberies, so even a simple act of locking the door when you’re inside can make you a little less vulnerable to attack.

Third, add some security. If you don’t have dogs, get one or two. Consider better locks, an alarm system, or even security cameras.

Several people have been robbed recently during the daytime by people who came to their gate. You might want to be careful about coming right up close to your gate in reply to a question, when you don’t know the person or people outside your fence.