Don’t be alarmed, but how safe is your home? How do you protect it—and yourself—from burglary and home invasions?
Home security has evolved throughout recorded history since there were moats around castles. It took a leap forward with the invention of the deadbolt lock in 1778, still a staple today. Then in 1853, the first electromagnetic burglar alarm was patented in Massachusetts, setting off the development of our modern systems.
According to the Pew Research Center, the two most cited sources of crime statistics in the U.S. – the FBI and Bureau of Justice Statistics—report that property crime nationally has decreased significantly. FBI reports a decrease of 48 percent between 1993 and 2016, and the BJS reports a decline of 66 percent in the same period.
That’s the good news. Still, break-ins and burglaries continue unabated, depending on the city and neighborhood. What discourages burglars the most? Homes with monitored security systems and yard signs plainly visible, outdoor and indoor cameras and—big surprise—a dog in the house. Of burglars surveyed, 95 percent said they would run if confronted by a threatening dog. Only 15 percent of U.S. homes are equipped with security systems.
Today’s advanced technology is light years away from that first burglar alarm. Security can be as simple as a DYI motion sensor camera to sophisticated automated and monitored systems that can be controlled from a smartphone.
Basic professionally installed systems include control panel, door and window sensors, motion detectors and fire and carbon monoxide alarms. But there are unlimited options for high-tier systems. They just cost more.
Generally, the equipment and installation are free as long as you subscribe to a monthly monitoring service that is locked into a three to five-year contract. Costs can run from $20 to $50 a month. But monitoring is critical if you want police and fire department notified immediately in case of an emergency—not to mention 24/7 peace of mind.
Not all security providers are created equal. When deciding to install and invest in a home security system, do your research. Look at the most highly rated companies in your area, and check customer reviews, the Better Business Bureau, and the FTC. Ask friends for referrals.
And with the onslaught of summer sales people knocking on doors, scams are prevalent. The Federal Trade Commission cautions home owners to demand the following before any conversation takes place.
• Contractor’s name.
• Street address and telephone number
• Contractor’s license number
• State that issued the license.
• Name the license is filed under
The person should also be wearing an official company uniform, and should not be allowed inside the home.
Are security systems fail safe? No. Malfunctions are all too common, and false alarms are the bane of police departments. Still, they are the undisputed deterrents to home attacks. Sixty percent of attempted burglaries with home alarms are unsuccessful. But 40 percent are.
Consider that 86 percent of burglaries occur between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. even when people are at home, and the front door is the most common entry point.
How and when do the police respond to alarms? According to Chris Ausec, Crime Prevention Officer with the Colorado Springs Police Department, “Routine residential burglary alarms are going to be a priority three. If the alarm company calls in a residential panic alarm, it’s a priority one (the highest priority). Priority three can be upped to priority two if evidence of crime exists. That is, multiple zone activation in different areas and different types—glass break, front door activation—or someone on scene without a valid passcode.”
However, CSPD no longer responds to monitored alarms unless the company is registered with them, including the annual $24.00 permit fee. “They must provide a valid permit number, a current license number from the city of Colorado Springs, and information about the property must be correct,” Ausec says. “They must also have made two attempts to contact the keyholders of the property to verify evidence of a crime.”
Crime numbers from the Colorado Springs Police Department for 2017 show that robberies were up 11 percent, with 501 cases. And 97 percent of alarms were false.
But really, when it comes to home safety, common sense prevails, with or without a security system.
Take good care of your home and yourself.
Tips from Officer Ausec to deter home intruders:
• Keep all doors locked when at home. ALWAYS lock all doors and windows when leaving the house, even for a few minutes.
• Close your garage door and lock the door that leads into the house.
• Don’t leave the garage door opener or spare keys in your vehicle.
• If there’s an alarm system, REMEMBER to ACTIVATE it.
• Install deadbolts on front and rear doors.
• Have motion sensor lights around your home.
• A doorbell and/or surveillance cameras are big deterrents to criminal activity.
• Trim shrubbery around the house to below three feet and trees to above seven feet.
• Cover window wells with security coverings that lock.
• Don’t open the front door to anyone you don’t know.
For More Information
Federal Trade Commission: www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0195-some-home-security-systems-may-be-scams
Bureau of Justice Statistics: www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=321
Weighing the Value of a Home Security System: www.nytimes.com/2010-05-01/your-money/household-budgeting/01