With all the emphasis in recent years on Homeland Security, many people have overlooked the importance of home security. While it may not be the first story in the news, when your home is burglarized, protecting your home soon becomes the most important issue in your world.
There is no reason to wait until it happens to you. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 75% of all crimes in the United States are property crimes. In 2003, there were 14 million property thefts. In 83% of these crimes, the thieves broke into the home or some other building to steal property.
According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, residential burglaries in 2003 averaged $1,600 in property or cash loss per incident. This does not include the repair of locks, doors, windows and other destruction. Are you willing to give $1600 (not to mention the safety of your home and the safety of your family) to a burglar?
It can happen to anyone. Whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural area, you are the target of thieves. What are you gonna do about it?
Never underestimate the ingenuity of an intruder. Simply blocking the doors and windows is not enough. If you can think of a way to get into your home, surely someone who makes a living off crime can too.
You should also not overestimate the ingenuity of the neighbors. Neighborhood watches are fine, but how many of your neighbors spend every hour you’re not home watching your house? How would you distinguish between a furniture delivery and a robbery? Can you tell just by looking if someone is simply walking for exercise or investigating houses for possible burglary attempts? Even houses less than a mile from police stations are easily robbed.
There are more effective options that will prevent break-ins and make your home more secure.
A simple loud noise will not deter a criminal. Your neighbors are likely to turn up the volume on their TVs to reduce the sound. Criminals easily thwart battery-operated audible alarms and even electric ones.
If you are going to use a home alarm, you should use a monitored system. When deciding between monitored home alarm systems, you generally have three options: a DIY system, a national monitoring system, and a local system from a home security company.
DIY installation systems are by far the cheapest. You need a bit of technical knowledge, and you need to know how an intruder gets in. When you buy your own equipment, you can choose from companies to monitor your system. Some systems allow you to program additional numbers to be called when the alarm goes off, which isn’t as helpful as you might think. By the time you or a neighbor can react and call the police, your burglar will usually be gone. It is best to stay with the professionals.
National alarm system monitoring services (such as ADT or Brinks) are the most popular. Common customer complaints include being taken advantage of during installation. National companies contract installation with independent distributors. Many ADT and Brinks customers have reported outrageous quotes, have had to negotiate with the installer, and advertised specials are worthless. Other issues include monitoring errors and slow reaction time. When an alarm goes off, the company calls you to determine if the alarm was activated by accident (the vast majority of home alarm trips are accidents by homeowners). If they cannot reach you by phone, they will call the proper authorities. Dissatisfied customers reported no calls at all or very late calls. These companies also
they require you to contract with them for a specific period of time, usually 2-3 years, even if you are not satisfied with their service.
Local alarm monitoring systems are typically less expensive with higher levels of customer satisfaction. A local business will have fewer customers, so you are more important to them. You will get a less expensive but completely effective installation by a real representative of the company. Since these companies rarely require long-term contracts, you have more freedom to switch monitoring companies. Knowing this, they will generally charge less per month and work harder to maintain your business.
Any home alarm system comes with a useful yard sign indicating that your home is protected by an alarm system. This, on its own, is a form of prevention, as a burglar is more likely to break into a home without an alarm system. Alarm systems are also great for fires and other emergencies. Usually, as an added feature, you can connect smoke alarms to your monitoring system. If a smoke alarm goes off, the fire department is notified. This is especially beneficial at night or if you leave pets at home during the day. Panic buttons are good if you are home during a break-in or have a medical emergency. You should also get a break on your homeowners or renters insurance when you have a system installed. Monitored home alarm systems are definitely worth the investment, but you shouldn’t stop there.
Even if you have an alarm system, house sitters are invaluable. If you leave home to go on vacation, your best defense is to have real people in your home. Most burglaries in the United States occur during the day while people are at work. Criminals will take the easier route. If people are in your target home, they will move into a house that appears empty. The problem with traditional house-sitting services is that they simply make one or two trips to your house a day to pick up the mail, open the curtains, water the plants, and throw out criminals. That still leaves about 23 hours in the day that your home is vulnerable to intruders or fire.
The best option for sitting in the house is to have people living in your house. If you have a friend or family member who stays in your home full-time during your vacation, you’ll worry less about theft, fire, and other issues like returning to a flooded home from a broken water heater.
Having a babysitter also cuts down on preparation time and expenses before the holidays. You won’t have to stop your mail (all a criminal has to do is watch your mailman jump your house to assume he’s on vacation), buy and set light timers, or even tackle the dog.
Don’t have a friend or family member who can stay at your house? There are services available that bring people and home caregivers together. It’s like someone is renting your house while you’re on vacation, only they usually don’t pay you rent. They’ll pay your utilities, mow your lawn, take care of your mail, pets, and home while you’re gone. They will notify you of any problems. Services help you screen candidates and find the perfect person, couple or family willing to care for your home.
The best prevention you can implement is a combination of 24-hour home alarm monitoring and a house sitter if you are going to be away for an extended period of time. Don’t become a statistic. Start protecting your home today!
Copyright © 2005, Ian White