What do I do about someone squirting glue into the locks of my house?
April 24, 2011 8:04 PM   Subscribe

What do I do about someone squirting glue into the locks of my house?

Hello all. Over the last 3 weeks, someone has been squirting glue into the keyholes of my house.

I live alone in a house with 2 locks on the front door and one lock on the back door. One morning three weeks ago, my top front door lock had suddenly become gummy and difficult to use. I thought it was suspicious but put it down to kids' pranks. My top front door lock became increasingly difficult to use, and last week I stopped using it altogether (so I only locked my bottom front door lock as I left for work every day).

This morning, I woke up and my bottom door lock had become gummy overnight, and was difficult to use.

In both cases, you can feel that the area around the lock (and the key after it had been inserted into the lock) was sticky -- as if someone had been spraying glue into and around the lock.

I called a locksmith and changed both locks this afternoon. After the locksmith left, I checked my (hardly used) back door. Lo and behold -- that was gummed up, too.

I'm worried about this. Does anyone have any tips? I'm particularly worried because it would be a bit of a mission to get to my back door -- you'd basically have to climb over a 6' brick wall from a main road.

I'm also wondering why someone would do this? I'm dreading that either (1) someone is casing my house for a burglary, or (2) squatters are looking to expropriate me while I'm away, or (3) someone is victimising me (no idea who or why).

I've reported this to the police, who have recorded it as "criminal damage" but that's it so far. For what it's worth, I live in London in the UK.

Any recommendations -- motives for the gluers, or steps I can take to increase my security, recommendations of products that I can use to increase my security -- would be very much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Set up a camera (even a webcam) to record your door continuously and ask your neighbors if this happened to them too.
posted by acidic at 8:17 PM on April 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

Either way, that sucks -- either it is just a juvenile prank, or perhaps some thief thinks that maybe someone will let their guard down?

Perhaps these can help as some short-term solutions while you try to catch the perps:

As a way to help remove it without replacing the locks -- I would suggest getting yourself a bottle of Acetone. That should work to help remove most Krazy Glue style glues, if that is indeed what it is. They make thin syringes for applying these glues -- perhaps you could use the same syringe to squirt acetone in to remove the glue. I don't know if it will damage the lock components, though. So maybe test it on an interior door that you don't lock.

If it isn't a glue like that, you could also try some Goo Gone, which is a good solvent for a lot of other sticky things.

However, you probably don't want to carry around a bottle of acetone at all times. I wonder if maybe putting a lot of Vaseline or petroleum jelly inside and around the lock would allow you to continue using the lock, without allowing the glue to set. That is just a guess though, so maybe you would need to test that first.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:21 PM on April 24, 2011

I'd tape a note over the lock, small enough that the perpetrator has to get close to read it, that says "Smile for the camera!" (whether I had a camera set up or not)
posted by amyms at 8:27 PM on April 24, 2011 [19 favorites]

Set up one or two of these right above your front door (but above arms reach)
posted by special-k at 8:33 PM on April 24, 2011

Local locksmith drumming up business?

Setup webcam(s) is pretty much your only option.
posted by jkaczor at 8:42 PM on April 24, 2011

I would advise against leaving messages specifically aimed at whoever is doing this - getting personal could cause this person to escalate their tactics. Instead, if you do install a camera, just post a generic sign aimed at no one and everyone: "this area under video surveillance".
posted by KokuRyu at 9:03 PM on April 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

Maybe try this?
posted by jbenben at 9:31 PM on April 24, 2011

Spraying WD40 into the tumbler should prevent the glue from setting.

Out of interest, can you smell glue in the lock?

I would set up a camera, I wouldn't leave a sign or do anything to exacerbate the situation.
posted by the noob at 9:32 PM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

From your description it sounds like the locks were still usable at least for a time. It's not hard to render a lock completely unusable, so it seems unlikely this was the intent. Also, I wouldn't expect a film of glue to remain tacky for weeks, I'd have expected it to set hard.

Have you considered that it was some substance that was applied with the intent of lubricating but ended up congealing over time?
posted by justkevin at 10:01 PM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Friend has a front-porch camera, caught kids trying to squire glue in through the mail slot. Kids had done a few other places on the street too. Might just be the latest prank, since ringing the door bell is too 80s or something. If you do a sign or something, you will just "be remembered".
posted by lundman at 10:04 PM on April 24, 2011

Yeah, WD40 should also solublize a lot of gunk, which might include some glues.

Long term, it's not a good thing for your locks (the gunk and the solublization thereof).

Definitely a police matter.

Have you spoken with your neighbours about this?
posted by porpoise at 10:18 PM on April 24, 2011

In spy movies, a fast-hardening resin is sometimes inserted into locks in order to bypass them, and/or to make a copy of a workable key.

I have no idea whether this works in real life (seems pretty hokey to me, in fact) but maybe there are some nine year old Mission Impossible proto-burglars in your neighborhood.
posted by rokusan at 10:38 PM on April 24, 2011

Just as an aside, the squatter thing is highly unlikely. The idea that squatters would target occupied properties while the owners are out for the day or off on holiday is really an urban legend. Even if someone was minded to do it, it would be fairly pointless as they could be evicted straight away by the police without a court order (the householder would be a 'Displaced Residential Occupier' in law).

Most likely to be a prank, but of course I realise how unsettling that can feel in itself.
posted by spectrevsrector at 2:36 AM on April 25, 2011

Sounds more likely that a previous occupant has lubricated all the locks with WD40 or similar and that they have solidified at the same time. Lube the two new locks by blowing in powdered graphite*. Wash out the back lock with isopropyl alchohol / lighter fluid or similar and lube it with graphite when dry.
* From a locksmith or hardware store.
posted by Dr.Pill at 6:17 AM on April 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

is there a neighborhood gossip? If so, I'd definitely inform them bc they'll tell someone who will tell someone... until someone connects the dots and figures out who it is (assuming it's some kid in the neighborhood).
posted by Neekee at 6:37 AM on April 25, 2011

Have you considered that it was some substance that was applied with the intent of lubricating but ended up congealing over time?

As Dr. Pill says, WD-40 does that; it's not good for locks. Graphite is.

Acetone is for dissolving super glue (cyanoacrylate), but if you're finding stickiness, that isn't super glue. Acetone is highly flammable. I'd be careful about spraying it into a lock.

Maybe a can of electronic contact cleaner would get the gumminess out.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:58 AM on April 25, 2011

Right next to the lock, right where you can only see it if you're actually manipulating the lock, put up a small sign that simply reads "SMILE FOR THE CAMERA."

You don't even need an actual camera.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:38 AM on April 25, 2011

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