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What do you do for home security?
Old 09-10-2011, 08:50 PM   #1
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What do you do for home security?

We are pretty casual - my folks homesteaded in Alaska and part of the mythos growing up was that you left your cabin unlocked with food, a fire laid and matches - a found cabin could save a traveler's life. The gal and I both grew up in fairly small towns where people knew one another. Over the last 60+ years there have been thefts - a few cars, a motorcycle, cameras, tools, cash - but nothing that was really life altering.

Recently someone used a rock on a french door window at our La Quinta house. They were pretty tidy about going though the place, taking a LCD tv and monitor, a printer, and a set of cordless tools, but leaving things we care about (old ragged rugs, funky pottery, yardsale art). Looks like the cost of replacement and repair will be maybe $1500-$2000 or so. We have $1000 deductible on the insurance - doubt we will make a claim as I'd hate to start a conversation about how long the house sits vacant.

The house is behind a solid 5'+ gated and locked wall, all the windows and doors had blinds closed, we had 2 lights come on for 3-4 hours each on an overlapping schedule, pool guy goes by twice a week, some friends go by now and again. Thieves probably scaled a thorny mesquite that slopes toward the wall top, then unlocked the gate in the perimeter wall from inside to take their loot away.

A monitored security system is what? $50-70/month, $600-840/year? A homebrew camera setup is maybe $500 and required internet service during the 6 months we aren't there, so maybe an extra $240 for service and all I get is the ability to view someone stealing our stuff.

I guess I question what good a security system is - does film of a theft get your stuff back? Does an alarm bell keep the burglar from taking your flatscreen away with him? I'm tempted to mount a few phony cameras and bogus alarm company stickers, but it seems like you would want to get stickers from a company that does business in the local area. In my experience the police make sure they have my date of birth correct when taking a theft report, but that's about the end of it - no slam on the cops - they have plenty to do and need to ration their time and keep people from killing each other.

What do the board members do for security when away from your home and what is your thinking? Suggestions?
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Old 09-10-2011, 09:13 PM   #2
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I'm now living in a condo building with security. Previously, I lived in a detached home on a nice street. I moved in in 1991 and within 6 weeks I had had a centrally monitored alarm system installed. During the 20 years I lived there, I had the control centre upgraded once. I believe I paid ~$200 per year for monitoring. Very rarely I had a false alarm due to condensation on the smoke alarm, incompetence by my friends checking the house, howling wind moving the back door, etc. But I do know that my alarm prevented at least one burglary. Thieves entered my back yard (their footprints were clearly visible in the snow), saw the prominent stickers from the alarm company, and went next door, where there was no alarm. They cleared out my neighbour's electronics. She installed an alarm system immediately afterwards. Any alarm company will tell you that having a burglary is the biggest incentive for people to install an alarm system. The insurance discount doesn't hurt either.
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Old 09-10-2011, 09:31 PM   #3
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I typed out a long response but it got wiped out somehow so I'll summarize.

1) I am a police detective so I have some experience n this field, although I dont investigate property crimes.
2) A monitored alarm is a waste of money if you live in a big city. The process of the alarm company calling your house when the alarm goes off, waiting for a response, calling 911, waiting for what is a low priority call to be dispatched, waiting for the cops to drive to your house...takes WAYYYYY too long to catch a burglar in the act. When in patrol I probably answered 200 alarm calls. I caught one burglar in the act. Also, something like 96% of all alarm calls are false alarms so you can imagine what those stats do to a cops mindset when he gets the call to your house.
3) A video of a burglar isnt going to get your stuff back.
4) Just about the only way you will get your stuff back is to record all your serial numbers. Most stolen property ends up at a pawn shop and they are required to enter everything into a database which cops have access to.

Your best bet is to get an unmonitored alarm system that screams very loudly locally when it goes off. This will scare off the burglar before he steals your stuff. The fake alarm stickers are also a good thing. They will prevent the burglar from breaking your window or kicking in your door in the first place...and go to a neighbors house instead. The burglars Ive dealt with are too dumb to pay attention to what alarm company name is on the sticker.
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Old 09-10-2011, 10:06 PM   #4
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We lock our doors. Didn't used to until the neighbors decided to mix up some meth in their barn. We decided it was best.

Pretty quiet around here, usually. Once we were awoken by what we thought was someone tapping on our windows on New Year's Eve. I got out the .44 Mag and called 911. Sheriffs deputy, we know him as Frank, showed up and he and I walked around looking for foot prints and found nothing.

A few days later, DW saw him at the post office and he told her he thought we were crazy until about 10 minutes after leaving our house they got another call claiming the same thing from a neighbor. They investigated there and while they were out they heard the noise, but it was coming from across the valley. It was loud enough to rattle the windows. Turns out some people were shooting their 50 cal machine gun to ring in the New Year and the sound kind of echoed around the valley. Case closed.

A while back we used to see a strange flashing light at night in our bedroom. Probably sheet lightning way off in the distance and we couldn't here the thunder, but I suppose it could have been aliens. Kind of creeped us out for a few years because we could never see it when we looked for it.

Oh ya, the mailbox bomber was found about a 100 miles from our house. Opening the mailbox was exciting for a few days as he worked himself closer.

I find that in a community where most folks have a gun, or more likely a whole lot of them, crime seems to be pretty low. YMMV.
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Old 09-10-2011, 10:38 PM   #5
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Always have our doors and windows locked.
Have a loaded gun and not afraid to use it.
Have plenty of insurance.
Keep bushes trimmed away from the doors and windows.
Tell neighbors and if gone for longer than a week, notify the PD for a vacation check.

Right now we have a pet sitter come by once a day when we're out of town to feed our kitty. They also get the mail and handle a couple of other small things for us.

I think the best defense is nosy neighbors....
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Old 09-10-2011, 10:47 PM   #6
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utrecht nailed it - except I think the false alarm rate is actually about 99%.

Don't believe the alarm company advertisements that show their product as the greatest thing to ever happen to your life. Especially don't believe the part with all the cops rushing to respond to your alarm call.

I have an alarm system, but it's not monitored. Some people are afraid of spiders, some afraid of snakes - I'm afraid of the home invaders. Just as irrational and as unlikely to happen, but it's my thing. So, I have the alarm system because if anybody is getting shot around here in the middle of the night, I ain't going to be the only one.

As for the video thing, it won't help the police get your stuff back, but it darn sure will help convict the dirtbags who ripped you off.

I keep a home inventory of all my stuff for insurance purposes, and the serial numbers are part of that for the purpose helping catch and convict potential thieves and get my stuff recovered.

Edit: I had to think about if for a few minutes, I can only remember one burglar alarm call that was both good and the suspects were still on the scene. All the rest of the burglars I caught in the act were the result of someone seeing them in the act and calling the police. There are few things better for your home security than an alert neighbor with common sense who calls the cops. All the burglars I arrested as a detective were the result most often of a witness who remembered a license plate number, followed by the discovery of stolen property found in a pawn shop as the result of the victim actually knowing the serial number on his TV or whatever, a hit on some latent fingerprints left behind carelessly, and the occasional informant.
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Old 09-10-2011, 11:50 PM   #7
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We work at home so a burglary while we are away could be devastating if they took our computers. We have commercial insurance for replacements but the data is hard to keep updated off site.

We chose to live in a nice neighborhood that takes security seriously; the HOA pays for a patrol car 40 hrs a week, and if any suspicious cars are seen in the area, an email alert is sent out. He will keep an eye on your house if you let him know you are away. Any contractors have to be logged with the security guy (neighbors also report bad and good contractors too and warn about scams). After a few crimes a few years ago, a committee of retired law enforcement officers emerged, and there have been no burglaries since. The neighbors are great too, but many of the houses are surrounded by trees and quite sheltered if someone was breaking in.

In addition to the patrol, we also have ADT security - alarms on all the windows and doors, etc. ADT don't send armed officers but they call the local sherriff and my cel phone. We've had a couple of false alarms (darn spiders), but within a few mins the local sheriff was on the case. Luckily they are not so busy in our mountain community and actively encourage homeowners to call if they see anything suspicious etc. I firmly believe (and the sheriffs concur) that most thieves are looking for easy pickings - if they see the ADT signs and stickers on the windows, they will just go next door.

I used to not sleep well when we travelled for business, having nightmares about coming home to an empty office. But since getting the security system installed I don't fret now. We did, however, worry about finding a bear on the upstairs balcony when we got home last night since we've had to hide the bird feeder from him.
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Old 09-10-2011, 11:52 PM   #8
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My MIL's home alarm went off a few weeks ago. ADT couldn't reach her on the phone, so they called me. It took me about 20 minutes to make it to her house and I arrived well before the cops did. It ended up being a false alarm. But the cops were clearly not trying to catch a burglar red-handed.

At home, I always keep all doors and windows locked and bolted. I keep bushes trimmed around the perimeter of the house so there is no hiding places. I keep security lights on all night. I have an inventory of all my stuff backed up online (pictures, purchase dates, serial numbers, etc...). And when I leave the house for an hour or two, I am on the lookout for strange cars parked on my street in case someone is casing the place (I take a picture of their license plate with my cell phone).

We have a security system. It's there to 1) deter potential burglars and 2) alert someone so that the house (and the cats) can be secured shortly after a burglary if the burglars are not deterred.

We also have cameras on the outside. I use them mostly to monitor perimeter activity when I am at home. But they can also be used to record activity when we are away from home. They might be able to catch a license plate or a mug shot.
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Old 09-11-2011, 02:34 AM   #9
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When we lived in a house we had a non-monitored alarm system and 2 large dog kennels by the back door for the attack cats.

One Saturday, late morning, when we lived in Baton Rouge our neighbor knocked on the door and asked to use our phone to call the police. He had just got in from a run to the store and found a back window broken and back door standing open. He was afraid to enter his house as he kept guns with easy access in case of intruders so he knew for certain that if any burglars were still in the house they would be armed. After calling the police we walked over to take a look. It had been a quick in and out taking what electronics and valuables they could see.

These days we live in an apartment in a complex where all apartments have alarm systems - we don't pay for it to be monitored. All apartments are in blocks of 8, arranged on 2 floors, and all have individual access via doors and garages on the ground floor. Only access to our upstairs apartment is either through a metal door at street level or a metal door from the rear of the garage.

We spend a lot of time away, our son goes around a couple of times a week, but that's all. We have renters insurance and nothing in the place is irreplaceable or holds much sentimental value (certainly nothing a thief would want). These days even our computers are laptops which we take with us when we travel. We do give the car keys to our son for safe keeping if we are away, like now, without the car.
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Old 09-11-2011, 03:47 AM   #10
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I also live in a condo with central security. The building has staff 24 hours a day + video surveillance + restricted access. I feel very safe here so do not have any alarm in my condo.
Originally Posted by Meadbh View Post
I'm now living in a condo building with security.
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Old 09-11-2011, 05:50 AM   #11
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I have been burgalrized three times, twice in DC, once at our weekend place in VA. In DC they came in thru an open window and took a camera and a stereo, the second time they took two bikes from the garage. In VA they broke a window and took the only thing they found that they wanted - a 38 special and a 22 target rifle.

My take is that locking doors and windows, and not keeping easy to move valuable stuff around is the most sensible approach. Both of our houses are very attractive but we don't keep much in the way of valuables around. If we get burglarized the costs are not going to be high. In DC we do have stickers from a former security system on the doors. We also have two noisy Golden Retrievers - I think they are the biggest deterrent.
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Old 09-11-2011, 06:25 AM   #12
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An ADT sign in the flowerbed, outside (even though we don't use the service ).

Two yappy dogs inside.

IMHO, there is nothing in the home of consequence (other than the dogs). While "stuff" can be taken and the place trashed, that's the reason why I have insurance.

Probably the best deterrent is me. Being retired and a "homebody", I'm here 98% of the time not only watching over my place but also other homes I can see from my front/back windows for other "questionable activities". Sometimes, the old(est) codger of the neighborhood (yes, I am ) and the only retiree does add value.

I agree that alarm systems are generally useless. Somebody can go through a home quickly and these days (especially living outside the city) response time will be well after the fact.
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Old 09-11-2011, 06:35 AM   #13
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Door, window alarms (very loud), security signs, good nosey nieghbors who know when we are gone, they get mail, papers, mow grass, etc. Our Sheriff dept. has a program of having a patrol car come through as time and resources permit, they will even get out of their cars and walk around your house. Plus we have an active nieghborhood block watch program.
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Old 09-11-2011, 07:19 AM   #14
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I'm also a retired police officer and my experience parallels the other two. I've responded to hundreds, if not thousands of alarms. Virtually all were a waste of everyone's time. I think one (by another officer) actually resulted in an arrest. My home does not have an alarm system.

What I do have is a light on every side of the house and they stay on all night. They're not bright, they're ~15W CFLs, but ours is one of about three out of ~three hundred that have lights on all night. When we go away I ask a neighbor to pick up the mail and newspaper.

We also have good deadbolt locks. While it's not impossible to break in, it'll take more than a screwdriver. Sliding glass doors have "charlie bars" and screws in the upper tracks to prevent the door from being lifted off the lower track. That of course does not prevent someone from throwing a cinderblock through the glass but strangely, I only saw that happen once.

When asked what the best burglary protection is my response has always been "A large, territorial, suspicious, ill-tempered dog with sharp teeth. Two are even better".

The best thing you can do is keep serial numbers. That has a far greater likelihood of resulting in convictions than fingerprints, video cameras, and all that other CSI stuff, most of which is pure fiction anyway.
I heard the call to do nothing. So I answered it.
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Old 09-11-2011, 07:31 AM   #15
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No alarm system here in my home of 7 years. I have good locks on all the windows and doors, and I don't even bother going to the door if the bell rings and I am not expecting anyone. My neighbors are pretty close on either side and there are no tall bushes hiding windows or doors or walkways. My street is well-lighted, and while a side street, it is pretty visible from a well-trafficked thoroughfare. I usually go into the house by driving into my garage. I also have a yappy little dog and a fenced backyard. I quit getting the papers delivered after they kept coming while I was on vacation despite putting them on hold, and the post office reliably holds my mail if I plan to be away for more than a couple of days. My long-time gardener keeps the grass cut and the walks and driveway shoveled whether I am home or not.

I have never experienced a break-in anyplace that I have lived so maybe I have a false sense of security. I let my neighbors know when I am away, and they have my cell phone and w*rk numbers if they have a question about anything.

I really don't think I have anything worth stealing other than some bits and bobs of jewelry. A thief would be disappointed with my electronics.
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Old 09-11-2011, 07:44 AM   #16
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What convinced me to have a metal door at the rear, with hinge bolts etc to stop it being pried out the frame, was a colleague back in '92 who came home after a call from the police to find that thieves had a cut a hole through his back door with a chain saw so that the alarm was not triggered. (no motion detectors obviously).

Amazing what risks thieves will take.
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Old 09-11-2011, 07:55 AM   #17
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  • Like others have said, we keep the house locked with deadbolts and have window locks on the basement windows.
  • We keep bushes trimmed and lights on all around the house, all night - every night so they'll (sadly) go to a neighbor.
  • We've always had dogs which helps a lot, but our old girl is 15 now and her watchdog days are long over, she's deaf now.
  • We don't keep anything valuable at home. Though I know just having our space violated is probably the bigger fear than property loss.
  • We also live in a very low crime area. I have never heard of a breakin in our neighborhood of 800 homes (though I am sure there have been some), only the occasional teenage property vandalism.
  • We don't have any alarms or signs (though we should probably have a fake sign just for good measure).
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Old 09-11-2011, 08:15 AM   #18
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We tend to be home bodies, so that probably is the best deterrent of all. Also, equipped with baseball bats and firepower and know how to use them.
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Old 09-11-2011, 08:15 AM   #19
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I think we are missing a bet by not thinking outside the box.

A moat works nicely, and if thugs get across the drawbridge when it is down then try shooting at them with crossbows from the turrets.
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Old 09-11-2011, 08:29 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by W2R View Post
I think we are missing a bet by not thinking outside the box.

A moat works nicely, and if thugs get across the drawbridge when it is down then try shooting at them with crossbows from the turrets.
What if you are outside the box?
Can't shoot at them if you are not home
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