Corrections or additions?
This article by Karen Hodges Miller was prepared for the
March 28, 2007 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
Residential Real Estate Notes
Meet the latest reality TV show star, Hank Grynberg, Ewing
contractor. Well, maybe not exactly a star, but Grynberg
will be featured on an upcoming episode of the Discovery
Channel’s "It Takes a Thief." Grynberg, a partner in the
central New Jersey franchise of Paul Davis Restorations
(609-538-8424), is the contractor who comes in to "fix up
the mess" created by the show’s hosts, Matt Johnston and
Jon Douglas Rainey.
"It was a fun experience," Grynberg says of his day as a
television star. The television show is the latest twist
in the current makeover fad. The hosts, Johnston and
Rainey, are two reformed thieves. They "case" a
neighborhood, pick a home, and then get the homeowners’
permission to test their security.
The owners leave the home and the burglars attempt to
break in. Of course, they always succeed, and once inside,
they give the owners a true taste of just what it feels
like to be burglarized. They don’t just take the valuables
– they rip, tear and break everything in their path. The
shocked homeowners watch on camera as the burglary takes
place, and then are treated to a home security makeover.
That’s where Grynberg stepped in. The episode featuring
Grynberg is scheduled to air on Tuesday, April 3, although
that date is subject to change. Lion Television, the
producers of the show, are always careful not to say
exactly where the show was filmed, as one of the
precautions they take in keeping their selected
homeowners’ identities and addresses a secret. They would
only say that this episode features "a Mercer County
Working on a reality TV show was quite different from the
reality of Grynberg’s job. He and his brother Daniel have
been partners in the franchise since 1994. The firm
focuses on insurance-related restorations, repairing
damage from flood, fire, and on occasion, burglary. The
producers of the "It Takes a Thief" show have worked with
several of the Paul Davis franchises, says Grynberg,
although this was the first time his particular company
has worked with the show.
"There was a lot of standing around and waiting," he says
of his day on the set. "It was different. On a regular job
you don’t wait around four hours to put in four screws on
a lock box and then do it with a TV camera and a half
dozen people looking over your shoulder."
Grynberg didn’t mind the waiting, however. He enjoyed the
excitement of working with a television crew. "I got to
talk with some very interesting people," he says. "People
you don’t normally meet."
Johnston, the show’s host, started committing burglaries
at age 16. After being caught several times, he learned
his lesson and became a tutor for special needs children
before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in
filmmaking. Rainey, who commits the on-screen burglaries,
is a New Jersey native who began his burglary career in
his teens and served time in jail before reforming and
joining the Coast Guard.
"It was interesting to talk with Matt and Jon," says
Grynberg. "Matt is very friendly. Jon was more reserved,
but he really seems to have fun when it’s time to do his
stuff in the house."
Grynberg wasn’t paid by the hour on this job. He was paid
for the costs of materials and traded his labor for the
promotional opportunity for his business. "I talked with
some of the other Paul Davis contractors who worked with
the show. They all said it was a good experience and
recommended that I do it," he says.
After the "break-in" Grynberg installed a number of new
security features in the home, including a more secure
bedroom window and screen, inside wall and floor safes, a
wall-mounted key lock box, outdoor security flood lights
with motion detectors, and door hinges and locks. Grynberg
preaches the same theme as the "It Takes a Thief" show:
Use your locks. The best security system in the world
doesn’t work if it isn’t used. "So many people have
security systems and locks and never use them," he says.
"But thieves are looking for the house that is easy to
Secure your sliding doors. A "Charlie-bar," a bar designed
to secure a sliding glass door, is an excellent and
inexpensive investment. Sliding doors are one of the
easiest ways to break into a home, because the panels can
be lifted out of the track without breaking the glass. A
Charlie-bar keeps the thief from lifting the panel out,
and forces him to use a messier method, which is often
enough to make him look for another target.
"A thief doesn’t want to break glass," says Grynberg.
"It’s noisy and messy and can easily be noticed."
Look for inexpensive security fixes. It doesn’t have to
cost a fortune to make a home more secure, says Grynberg.
Improved locks on doors and windows and outdoor flood
lights are easy, inexpensive, and effective. Safes are a
good idea if they are bolted from the inside to something
substantial, like the floor, so they can not just be
If the "It Takes a Thief" crew is not in your
neighborhood, Grynberg recommends an easy way to test the
security of your home. "Pretend you have locked yourself
out of the house and see how easy it is to break in," he
suggests. A quick walk around the outside of your home may
show some unexpected flaws in your security.
"Don’t leave ladders sitting under windows," he says.
"It’s just an invitation. And large bushes that hide
windows and doorways make it easy for a thief to take his
time in opening a lock."
The "It Takes a Thief" crew also tests the security they
install in a home, as well as the owners’ use of it. After
finishing the upgrades, they return a few weeks later for
a surprise visit to see if they are able to once again
burglarize the home. Grynberg doesn’t yet know if the
security measures he installed have passed the test. He,
like the rest of us, will have to watch the show to find
– Karen Hodges Miller
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