On Lock Down — protecting homes from thieves

Locking the door before leaving the house may not be enough to keep the bad guys out, but a security system can help.

The basics
Watch Part One to learn how alarm systems work and get tips on how to choose a monitoring service.

Watch Part Two to learn how much home alarm systems can generally cost.

Who to hire?
Learn what to consider when hiring a home alarm provider.
Locking the door before leaving the house may not be enough to keep the bad guys out, but a security system can help.

Homes without security systems are on average 3.5 times more likely to be burglarized, according to a research study conducted by Temple University, so consider these points if thinking about an alarm system for your home:

Robbed Blind
Burglary victims suffer an average of $2,096 in property loss, according to the FBI. Some of the most popular targets for thieves include cash and items that can be easily carried and resold such as jewelry, hand guns and electronics.

In Broad Daylight
Burglars do not typically break into homes under the cover of darkness. Instead, most break-ins occur during the day when homes are less likely to be occupied. Break-ins are also most common during the summer when owners tend to spend more time away from their homes for vacations or local activities.

On Guard
Alarm systems come in two varieties; unmonitored and monitored. Both systems use devices such as window and door sensors and motion detectors to protect the property. When tripped, both systems will sound an alarm. However, a monitored system will also send a signal to a monitoring station so local law enforcement can be sent to the house.

Look; No Wires
Conventional security systems rely on the home's telephone line to communicate with the security company's monitoring station. However, some new, high-tech security systems use cellular devices to send wireless alarm notifications. This advancement eliminates the need for telephone service and adds an additional level of security because there is no telephone line would-be burglars can cut.

Cost Comparison
The cost of a security system will vary from one provider to the next and will depend heavily on the options that are selected. Do-it-yourself systems that include door and window sensors can be purchased at a home improvement store for less than $100. A professionally installed security system with a keypad, door sensors and a motion detector can cost $500 and up for equipment and installation. A monitored system will have an additional fee for monthly monitoring.

Choosing a Provider
Selecting a security provider is a big decision, and it is not something that should be taken lightly, according to T.J. Kilgore of NorthStar Security in Atlanta, Ga.

"Take your time and choose the right company and the right system for your needs," said Kilgore. "It's important to make sure you're working with a company you feel you can trust. If they are difficult to work with or use high-pressure sales tactics, immediately show them the door."

If trying to choose a security system and a service provider, ask these questions to ensure you get what you want and need:
  • What is the total cost of the security system? When comparing systems, calculate the three-year cost of each by factoring in the installation and equipment costs along with monthly monitoring fees.

  • Will additional equipment be needed for the system to operate properly? A traditional system will require a phone line, and a cellular system will need a wireless device to transmit the alarm signal to the monitoring center.

  • Is a long-term contract required? If you don't sign a contract, you will pay more on the front end for the equipment, but this might be worth it to you.

  • Does the monitoring center have a redundant power system? This safeguard will ensure the security provider can effectively respond to your alarm events and monitor your home even if the station's power is out.

  • What is the average response time to an alarm event? The average response time should be less than three minutes.
Security systems are a deterrent for burglars, but simple steps like these can also help make a home less appealing to potential thieves:
  • Don't advertise. Burglars can use social media to find out when owners are not at home. Posting updates that tell burglars you're on vacation or running errands is like rolling out a welcome mat for crooks.

  • Place a temporary hold on mail and newspaper deliveries if leaving town. A stack of newspapers and a mountain of mail are clear signs no one is at home.

  • Trim vegetation near the house. Large shrubs can provide places for burglars to hide and can make a home a more attractive target.

  • Use a timer to set interior and exterior lights to turn on and off at various times to give potential burglars the impression someone is home.

  • Install motion-activated exterior lights. Burglars do not want to be seen, and these lights will send thieves elsewhere.

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