Is a Home Security System Worth the Money?

home security systemI’ve seen a lot of advertisements for the ADT and Brinks home security system on TV lately. Both companies have rather comical commercials because in each of the advertisements, the home invader kicks down the door, makes a face like a gorilla, then immediately run away when they realized someone was home. Sad thing is, that’s not how it works in real life. Those are examples of home invasions, which are more violent and different than burglaries.

A burglary is defined as a non-confrontational property crime in which items are removed from the residence. Most burglaries take place during daylight hours because a vast majority of these people are at work, at school or running errands. This greatly increases the odds that the burglar will make an easy getaway. According to the FBI, only 13% of all burglarized items are returned to their rightful owner and the thieves are rarely caught. This makes burglaries a flourishing criminal act.

Most of the time, burglars are very quick carrying out smash and grab type crimes. They look for an easy entry and grab the small items like loose cash, jewelry and small electronic devices. This stuff can be sold to pawn shops or other crooks very easily and converted to cash on the spot. However, about 70% of all burglaries do use some form of small force to enter the residence. This may include entering through a garage door, an open window, or finding a spare key hidden somewhere outside. They might also use simple tools found in the garage to pry a door lock or window. Some burglars have entered a home through a doggy-door.

On the other end of the burglary spectrum is a home invasion, which is far more terrifying. It’s defined as a burglary when someone is present in the home or dwelling (like the ADT and Brinks commercials portray). According to the department of justice, there are more than 8,000 home invasions every day in North America and 50% of home invasions involve the use of a weapon; the most common weapons used are knives or other cutting instruments. Sadly, in 48% of those home invasions, the occupant(s) are physically injured either by a weapon or by rape. The reason being, the police simply couldn’t get there in time and the occupant had no way of defending themselves from the attacker(s).

While it seems clear to me that a home security system will greatly deter a burglar, I’m not so sure it will matter all that much should a home invasion occur. Here’s my thinking. Even if you have an alarm, on average it takes the police 8 minutes 25 seconds to respond to a priority 1 call (shooting, home invasion, violent act). Unfortunately, the home intruder can get to you in less than 20 seconds. Most home invasions are carried out by the unsuspecting occupant opening the front door for a person that looks like a solicitor, a person in need of help, or someone taking a survey. In order to open the door, one must deactivate the alarm (if it was activated). At that point, the home invader forces his way into the residence through the opened door. You will not have enough time to press the key code combination to re-activate the alarm, or active the panic alarm.

In some cities, like Detroit, the police department has told the alarm companies not to call the police unless they can prove there has been an actual crime committed. The reason for this being, only 1 in 50 calls made by an alarm system are actual crimes. Most are false alarms (source: Click Here).

Sometimes, the home invaders simply kick down the door or break through a window. While most alarms have a panic code you can enter, it’s extremely unlikely you’d be able to press the panic button during a home invasion. Either because you will be in a physical struggle or you’re going to panic and run like hell. Also, home invasions are often carried out by drug addicts who are either high or looking for a high. They are not logical and won’t be easily deterred. Even if you have an alarm system or call 911, its unlikely either will save you. Your best defense at that point is to have a gun.

So, is a home security system worth the money? In my opinion, yes, but only to prevent burglaries and to report a fire (if you have a fire sensor attached to your alarm system). I’m not so sure an alarm system will play that big a role during a home invasion, because in all likelihood, the damage will have already occurred before the police could arrive. Should you ever be unfortunate enough to be in that situation, I’m afraid a firearm is your best defense. That being said, I myself do have a home security system. I have sensors on all my windows and doors plus motion sensors in the basement. Every time we leave the house and during the night while we are sleeping, the alarm is activated. Most burglars are not going to risk robbing a house that has an alarm system. Believe it or not, stickers or a sign that advertises you have an alarm system is a huge deterrent for burglars. The risk just isn’t worth the reward unless they know you have something of good value that they can easily grab and sell. Also, if you do happen to come home and the alarm has been tripped, it will usually make a chirp and tell you which sensor triggered the alarm. You can then immediately leave the house and call the police (if the alarm company hasn’t already dispatched them), hopefully preventing a burglary from turning into a home invasion should the perpetrator still be in your house.

Burglar breaking into houseShould a home invasion occur at night while my family and I are asleep, the alarm will sound immediately waking everyone in the house. This will give me enough time to grab my phone and firearm that’s in a quick access safe on my side of the bed. Trying to collect all my family members and barricade ourselves in a room may do little good as most interior home doors are weak and can easily be kicked down.

It will also take time to run around the house collecting the kids. Again, the average response time for the police during a home invasion or burglary is a little over 8 minutes. Most alarm companies will call the house to verify the alarm (it doesn’t happen quicker than you can run to the phone as portrayed in the ADT and Brinks commercials). The police will then get a phone call from the alarm company which could take a few more minutes to pass along the address and type of crime (if known). Then the police will have to drive to your residence. In that time, the damage could already be done to you and your family. Seconds add up and turn to minutes, which can feel like an hour.

Also, if a home invasion occurs during the day, you may not have the alarm activated. In this situation, awareness is the best protection. Before opening the door, look through the peep hole first (if you don’t have one, get one installed). If you feel at all uneasy about the person ringing your doorbell, don’t answer the door but tell them you are not interested. You want to make sure you let them know you are home. If they think no one is home, they make try to break in. You might also pretend to call out to someone else in the house to make it seem as though there is someone else in your home with you. Never, ever, let a stranger into your house!! No matter the reason! If you must, exit your home and close the front door behind you. That way you are out in the open visible for others to see. A storm door is a good investment because it allows you to open the front door to have a conversation while still offering you some good protection from brute force entry. And lastly, don’t leave a spare key outside. Leave it with a trusted neighbor or a friend.

So again, I think alarm systems are worth the money in preventing burglaries and reporting fires. But a home invasion is a different beast and you will need a way to defend yourself immediately.

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