The Reality of Home Security Systems
Authored by: Brad Lila
I am going to touch on the home security market and the false sense of security these systems often offer.
Home security alarm systems sales have exploded within the past few years. The reason for the incredible increase is two fold; i) decrease in installation and system equipment, sometimes free (although monthly fees quickly exceed the initial savings) ii) large corporations have entered the market due the attractiveness of reccurring security payments and have spent considerable marketing dollars.
Installation and equipment costs have decreased substantially due to the entry of large corporations who have the balance sheet to absorb the initial cost of the system – systems which they receive at a reduced cost due to large orders. However, don’t be fooled by the attractiveness of the initial offer. You will more than pay for the system and installation with monthly fees and you will now be saddled with the pain so often experienced when dealing with large corporations. If you have the ability to work with a local security company, even at increased upfront costs with lower monthly fees, it is usually worth it.
The installation of any security system (especially video) is a good measure for any homeowner, if you can afford it; however, you need to know the limitations of most systems we see on the market. The standard system installed in most homes includes door and window sensors and maybe a few motion detectors. The first and most important limitation of these systems is the fact that the only true “security” they provide is in the form of deterrence – that sign in your yard. They do not actually stop anyone from entering your home. All they do, if working properly, is alert you to the break-in. Some will say that they also alert the police to the break-in, which I guess is true; however, understand that the alarm does not go directly to the your local law enforcement dispatch center. Instead, it goes to the company’s call center where they often first try to determine the validity of the alarm and then they will contact the local law enforcement dispatch center. As an ex-law enforcement officer I can tell you that this process can often take awhile. I recall an incident where we entered a home to look for an individual. The home was “protected” by a security system. We tripped the alarm upon entry, cleared the entire home and were standing outside talking in the driveway when dispatch finally received a call from the security company informing us that there was an alarm at the residence we had just cleared. Even if a squad car had been parked a few blocks from that residence and responded immediately, it would have been too late.
PoliceOne.com, which is a fantastic site, produced an article on December 03, 2013 titled, “Ohio PD to Stop Responding to Most Security Alarms” Of note within the article was the statement, “Nice quoted statistics from a recent two-year sampling of 26,229 alarm calls that resulted in 489 police reports being generated and only three burglary-related arrests.” These numbers are representative of what you’ll find in most jurisdictions. I have often found that most departments will report that 98% to 99% of all home alarms are false alarms.
With the fiscal limitations faced by most law enforcement agencies many are turning to Verified Response requirements before they’ll respond to an alarm system. Verified Response requires that an eyewitness or video surveillance corroborate that a crime is occurring before law enforcement is contacted. This requirement has many inherent problems, but I fully understand the need. The obvious question is who is going to be an eyewitness unless the home is occupied, or verify that the person on the camera is indeed a criminal? The amount of time it would take to reach these requirements, contact law enforcement, and then respond affords the criminal so much time that we have to question the value a home security system offers.
In eleven years of law enforcement I only recall one instance when a suspect was arrested after tripping a home security system.
Now, how do I turn the corner from those facts? I do firmly believe that any type of effort to secure your home is not wasted, so a home security system is better than no home security system – if those are your only efforts. However, there are many products on the market that for the money and time are much more effective at keeping your family safe. Remember, alarm systems only tell you when someone has entered your home – they don’t stop anyone. Products like FlexStrong (www.flex-strong.com) are designed to keep people from forcing their way into your home. Spend some time looking at products that actually stop criminals. It is time well spent.
“The more time you have the safer they are.”