With all of the emphasis in the past few years on Homeland Security, many people have overlooked the importance of home security. While it might not make the first story on the news, when your house is burgled, safeguarding your home soon becomes the most important issue in your world.
There's no reason to wait until it happens to you. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 75% of all crime in the United States is property crime. In 2003, there were 14 million thefts of property. In 83% of these crimes, the burglars actually entered the home or some other building to steal property.
According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, residential burglaries in 2003 averaged $1600 in property or cash loss per incident. This does not include repair of locks, doors, windows, and other destruction. Are you willing to give $1600 (not to mention the security of your home and safety of your family) to a burglar?
It can happen to anyone. Whether you live in an urban, suburban, or rural area, you are a target of burglars. What are you going to do about it?
Never underestimate the resourcefulness of an intruder. Simply locking your doors and windows isn't enough. If you can think of a way to get into your home, surely someone who makes crime his living will be able to as well.
You also shouldn't overestimate the resourcefulness of neighbors. Neighborhood watches are fine, but how many of your neighbors spend every hour you aren't home watching your house? How would hey distinguish between a furniture delivery and a robbery? Can you tell just by looking if someone is simply walking for exercise or casing 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 secure.
A simple loud noise will not deter a criminal. Your neighbors are likely to turn up their televisions to drown out the sound. Battery and even electrically operated sound alarms are easily thwarted by criminals.
If you are going to use a home alarm, you should use a monitored system. When you decide between monitored home alarm systems, you generally have three choices – a do-it-yourself system, a national monitoring system, and a local home security company system.
The do-it-yourself installation systems are by far the cheapest. You need a bit of technical know-how, and you need to know how an intruder enters. When you buy your own equipment, you have your choice of companies to monitor your system. Some systems let you program additional numbers to be called when the alarm is triggered, which isn't as helpful as you'd think. By the time you or a neighbor is able to react and call the police, your burglar is usually long gone. It's best to stick with the pros.
National alarm system monitoring services (such as ADT or Brinks) are the most popular. Common customer complaints include being taken advantage of on installation. The national companies contract installation with independent dealers. Many ADT and Brinks customers have reported outrageous quotes, having to negotiate with the installer, and advertised specials being worthless. Other problems include monitoring errors and slow reaction time. When an alarm is triggered, the company calls you to determine if the alarm went off by accident (the large majority of home alarm triggers are accidents by the home owners). If they cannot get you on the phone, they will then call the proper authorities. Unhappy customers have reported no calls at all or very delayed calls. These companies also
require you to contract with them for a specified amount of time, usually 2-3 years, even if you are unhappy with their service.
Local alarm monitoring systems are usually less expensive with higher levels of customer satisfaction. A local company will have fewer customers, so you are more important to them. You will get a less expensive, yet completely effective installation by an actual company representative. Because these companies rarely require long-term contracts, you have more freedom to change monitoring companies. Knowing this, they will usually charge less per month and put forth more effort to keep your business.
Any home alarm system comes with a useful lawn sign indicating that your home is protected by an alarm system. This, alone, is a form of prevention as a thief is more likely to hit a house without an alarm system. Alarm systems are also great for fires and other emergencies. Usually as an added feature, you can hook smoke alarms up to your monitoring system. If a smoke alarm goes off, the fire department is notified. This is especially beneficial during the night or if you leave pets at home during the day. Panic buttons are good if you happen to be home during a break-in or you have a medical emergency. You should also get a break on your homeowner's or renter's 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 your home to go on vacation, your best defense is having actual people in your home. The majority of burglaries in the United States happen during the day while people are at work. Criminals will take the easiest route. If people are in their targeted home, they will move on to a house that appears empty. The problem with traditional house sitting services is that they simply make one or two trips to your home a day to collect mail, open curtains, water plants, and throw off criminals. That still leaves about 23 hours in the day that your home is vulnerable to intrusion or fires.
The best house sitting option is to have people living in your home. If you have a friend or family member stay at your home full-time throughout the length of your vacation, you will worry less about burglaries, fires, and other problems such as coming back to a flooded home because of a broken hot water heater.
Having a house sitter also cuts down on preparation time and expenses before your vacation. You won't have to have your mail stopped (all a criminal has to do is watch your postal carrier skip your house to assume you're on vacation), buy and set light-timers, or even board the dog.
Don't have a friend or family member who can stay at your home? There are services available that match up people and live-in house sitters. It's as though someone is renting your house while you're on vacation, only they generally don't pay you rent. They will pay utilities, mow the lawn, take care of your mail, pets, and home while you're away. They will notify you of any problems. The services help you screen candidates and find the perfect person, couple, or family willing to take care of your home.
The very 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 any length of time. Don't become a statistic. Start protecting your home today!
Copyright © 2005, Ian White