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 Sensible Choices in Protecting Your Home

Burglary is the act of breaking into a home or building with the intention of committing a felony, regardless of whether or not the intention was successful. Those who protect their homes with home security devices may still be accosted by a burglar, but the culprit is apt to be frightened away before he can steal anything, or—in the case of a silent alarm system—more likely to be caught than those who are able to break in unimpeded.

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Even if you don’t actually have a home security surveillance system, there are some simple things you can do to deter a burglar. According to a group of convicted burglars, things like good exterior lighting, dogs inside the house, and a  knowledge of weapons on the premises are inexpensive, but at least reasonably effective deterrents. However, don’t bother with things like timed interior lights, dead blot locks, and burglar alarms that make noise but don’t actually call the police. The latter is only effective in a heavily populated area where neighbors actively call police if a local alarm is heard.  The following list—arranged from least effective to most effective—provides a range of burglary deterring methods.

Burglary deterring methods

  • Timed interior lights, televisions, etc. Professional crooks case the place first and know that you have installed such devices.

  • Deadbolt locks; crooks don’t use the most obvious entry places, so extra locks on the door are meaningless.

  • Local burglar alarms—the type that just makes a lot of noise, but doesn't call the police

  • Safes/strong boxes: If it's small enough, they'll take the whole box. If not, there will be plenty of items that aren't in the box.

  • Neighborhood watch programs: these tend to be effective at first, but over time people tend to relax their vigilance.

  • Better exterior lighting; important if you live in a rural area where people could prowl around at night without being seen

  • Guardhouses protecting homes; expensivenot generally used except at homes of very wealthy or high profile individuals

  • Weapons in the home; not much good if you aren't home

  • Dog in house (outdoor dogs are less threatening than indoor ones)

  • Private security patrols

  • Electronic sensors in windows

  • Monitored burglar alarms (most effective deterrent)

The top four deterrents are burglar alarms (the type that call authorities), electronic devices, private patrols, and dogs. Dogs, however, are only effective if they are trained security dogs. The family pet can be deterred with a slab of meat, a sharp yell, or a determined approach. If all else fails, a determined crook will simply kill or maim the dog. Real guard dogs are not good family pets, but are trained to maim or kill if necessary. However, the maintenance of such an animal will soon make the effort more costly than just installing a security device.

Authorities report that professional criminals dislike time, noise, and light. If it takes too long or causes a disturbance to break into your house, he will just go to the next one. Using quality doors and windows with heavy duty locks and sensors will force the crook to take extra time and can thus be an effective deterrent. Alarms that call the police without making noise may result in the crook getting caught, but by time the police get there, the thief may already be on the run. It’s better to avoid the burglary in the first place, which is more likely with an alarm that makes a loud noise. The noise should be triggered both by the breaking of sensor connections on entry points and by motion detectors inside the house.

The most effective security system is actually the least expensive—the monitored burglar alarm. Its cheaper than maintaining a guard dog, hiring a private patrol, or purchasing your own weapons The following list summarizes some options along with the pros and cons of each.

  • Wireless home security system: inexpensive, runs on batteries and will alert you to fire and gas emergencies as well as burglaries. Needs to be monitored to keep the batteries charged; if it does not call authorities, it may not be effective against burglary in rural areas.

  • Home burglar alarm system: Makes a lot of noise letting neighbors know to call authorities. Drawback: if neighbors are at work at the same time you are, there may be no one there to call for you. Also, burglars know how to disarm these and go on about their behavior.

  • Home security camera: lets you see what is going on at your home from work as long as you have access to a computer. Drawback: the system can be expensive, and if you are supposed to be working, you may not have the time to pay attention to your home.

  • Motion Detector (Lights) Alarm with Telephone dialer: this alarm connects to a telephone socket and will automatically dial a preset number if motion is detected within 20 feet. It will also set off a 125 decibel siren, although you can select the silent alarm option. The only drawback to this one is that you have to remember to set the alarm when you leave the house. This is the cheapest and most effective option, especially when combined with door and window contact sensors.

  • Driveway alert: uses a weather proof, infrared motion detector that sends a signal to a base unit located inside the house. The base unit then sets off an alarm. Drawback: A smart crook probably won’t come down the driveway.

  • Door and window contact magnets: sensors featuring a magnetic seal that detects movement if a door or window is disturbed. Not particularly effective by themselves, but very effective when installed as part of a monitored system.

 If you can’t afford the monthly subscription fee for a monitored alarm system, even a do-it-yourself alarm system is better than nothing at all. It also helps to make sure someone you trust knows when you are gone, especially if you are gone for several days on vacation or business trip. That way, if the alarm does sound, people in the area will know to check on your house or call the authorities.

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