When Things Go Beep In The Night

Here's how to safeguard your most important investment-your home

When Monique Jones moved into her house in View Park, California, her primary concern was safety, so she immediately had a security system professionally installed. “I figured putting up a lawn sign [indicating that the home was protected] would dissuade intruders,” says the CFO of Beverly Hills, California-based Total Film Group. She’s right. Studies show that decals and lawn signs do act as a deterrent, but burglars aren’t fooled by these trappings alone. It takes a home security system, among other precautions, to really safeguard your home.

Although crime in America is reportedly down, a burglary is still committed every 10 seconds, with an average loss of $1,300. Home owners are installing security systems in record numbers, up nearly 40% last year, according to alarm manufacturer SecurityLink.

This safeguard provides home owners with added protection as well as peace of mind.

But does every home need a security system? “It depends,” says security expert Chris E. McGoey, author of Security: Adequate or Not: The Complete Guide to Premises Liability Litigation (Aegis Books, $29.95) and founder-Webmaster of the San Francisco-based security consulting Crime Doctor Website (www.crimedoctor.com). “If you have a lot of possessions to protect and are away from home during the day or on business trips, then a security system is a good idea.” Home owners in high-crime areas shouldn’t be the only ones to consider security systems. Suburban dwellers, especially those who live in houses set apart on a cul-de-sac or close to a wooded area through which a thief may escape easily, should also have security concerns. Consumer Reports found that 30% of houses with alarms were broken into, while 52% of homes without systems were burglarized, so having an alarm system matters.

The choices are simple. You can go with an electronic system, or merely a good set of locks and other common-sense precautions. Here are your options.

WIRED OR WIRELESS
Electronic alarm systems are considered the best burglary deterrent, according to a Consumer Reports survey. With electronic systems, home owners can go one of two ways-a wired system or a wireless system, explains McGoey.

A basic wired system includes alarms on outside doors and windows, motion sensors in key areas, an alarm and/or bright lights and a connection to a central station. Security companies also supply home owners with a lawn sign and window decals. The system can be connected to cable TV instead of phone wires, which often get cut by intruders. “I had a sliding door wired and a glass-break alarm in one room where the windows weren’t suitable for wiring,” explains Jones, who chose the level above the basic installation.

With a wired system, you can choose to do it yourself or hire a professional security systems company for installation. Do-it-yourself systems are usually the cheapest way to go, costing less than $200, but it’s important to install the system correctly or you could be charged for false alarms, and these fees can eat up your initial savings. Police departments typically charge $50 and up for each false alarm. Generally,

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