Category Archives: Security News

The Top 10 Burglary Films

best heist filmsWhat do the Muppets, Alec Baldwin and Richard Nixon have in common? They have all been the subjects of popular burglary films. Over the past century, Tinsel Town has seen its fair share of robbery and heist movies, and not all have been noteworthy. For instance, we’d all love to forget about Ping, the story of a hang gliding chihuahua who foils a home invasion robbery (yes, that actually happened). However, a select few of these burglary/heist films have stood the test of time and become true Hollywood classics. The following list includes comedies, dramas, horror films, recent blockbusters and Golden Age essentials (in no particular order). Did any of your favorites make the list? Tell us your favorites in the comments below.

10 Films for Your Consideration

Home Alone: Ah yes, who can forget that incomparable 1990 classic starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern? It’s so cheesy, so unfeasible, and yet so endearingly John Hughes. Much as we’d like to mock and poke fun, we can’t help but return to it every holiday season, for better or worse.The film spawned multiple sequels of progressively diminishing quality, but there’s just no beating the original. After all, when you combine a tarantula, a shovel, and a couple of witless burglars, you have a recipe for comedy gold. 

glengarrygrGlengarry Glen Ross: With an all-star cast that includes Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin and Alan Arkin (basically every Al in Hollywood), it’s no wonder GGR is such a timeless epic. What really makes this film, however, is its powerful performances and electrifying melodrama. Fierce competition can drive honest people to dangerous extremes, including burglary and sabotage.

All the President’s Men: Here we have a tale about the most famous burglary in American history: the 1972 break-in at the Watergate complex. Based on true events, this story would forever change the face of U.S. politics while solidifying the already impressive Hollywood legacies of Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford.

The First Great Train Robbery: If you haven’t seen this one-of-a-kind action comedy from Michael Crichton (who would later go on to Jurassic Park fame), you’re truly missing out. Starring screen legends Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down, it’s the perfect marriage of Old West mischief and British sensibilities…and if that sounds too bizarre to be true, you’ll just have to watch the film.

To Catch a Thief (1955): One of the more underrated entries in the Hitchcock canon, this gripping romantic thriller stars Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, who find themselves involved in an unusual game of cat-and-mouse. Grant is sublime as John Robie (a.k.a. The Cat), a former jewel thief eager to reclaim his honor after being falsely indicted in a series of robberies.

muppets_2849681bMuppets Most Wanted: This critically acclaimed caper is the 8th Muppet movie to hit theaters, and it shows the beloved Henson creations in top form. Featuring Ricky Gervais and a sinister Kermit lookalike as insidious—albeit somewhat bumbling—jewel thieves, this film is actually the second Muppet heist movie to come along. You may also remember The Great Muppet Caper from 1981, starring Charles Grodin and Diana Rigg.

The Asphalt Jungle: If you love classic noir, first watch The Maltese Falcon. Then watch The Asphalt Jungle. This film is quite simply recognized as one of the best movies of all time, nominated for four Academy Awards, and recently selected for preservation by the National Film Registry and the Library of Congress. This caper film even features a young Marilyn Monroe in one of her first on-screen appearances, and according to Film writer David M. Meyer, “The robbery is among the best-staged heists in noir.” Check it out.

Absolute Power: Directed by, produced by and starring Clint Eastwood. Do we really need anything more than that? In this powerful political thriller, Eastwood plays a master jewel thief who—while carrying out a robbery—stumbles upon a murder at the hands of Secret Service agents. The events that follow are nothing short of heart pounding.

best heist moviesPanic Room: This edge-of-your-seat suspense thriller features Jodie Foster in one of her most spellbinding performances. Imagine being terrorized by a team of burglars while confined within the walls of your own panic room. If this one doesn’t get your heart racing, you probably don’t have a pulse.

Small Time Crooks: This is heist comedy as only Woody Allen can pull off. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Tracey Ullman, Hugh Grant and Michael Rapaport, it tells the story of a group of inept would-be bank robbers who find fortune in cookie sales. And that’s just the first act.

Burglaries may be exciting, electrifying or even hilarious in the movies, but there’s nothing funny about being the victim of a home invasion. If your home isn’t secure, check out the wide selection of home security systems available from Home Security Store

Dallas Burglary Victim Has a Warning for Other Homeowners

ThiefImagine the horror of experiencing a carefully orchestrated burglary firsthand. First you hear a fierce pounding at your front door. Then suddenly the power goes out. You look out your window and find the burglar scurrying straight toward you. He shatters the glass and leaves you virtually helpless, unable to even access your home security system in light of the sudden power outage. It may sound like the plot of a horror movie, but this actually happened to one family in Dallas. NBC reported the story earlier today, and it’s shedding some important light on key burglary prevention measures.

Background

When Dallas resident Paris Sunio described his ordeal to reporters, he recalled the terror of realizing that his home was being invaded. It all took place on Friday, and it began, as previously mentioned, with increasingly loud knocks at the door. “Each subsequent knock would be a lot louder, by the tenth one it became a bang bang bang,” he told NBC, “maybe eight minutes later my power goes off.” Sunio had suspected that the invaders might be burglars from the moment they began knocking, but what happened next truly took him by surprise. Total power failure.

The Aftermath

After the power went out, Sunio hurried to the front window and peered through the blinds. That’s when he saw the burglar marching toward him. “He kind of made a motion and punched the glass, and then I opened up my blind and started yelling whatever I could to startle him like ‘intruder, call the police!’” Sunio then called 911 and barricaded himself inside his office. Thankfully, the police arrived and nobody was harmed, but Sunio won’t soon forget this terrifying experience. Police suspect that the burglars had been casing his home for some time, as there were slats missing in the fence between Sunio’s home and a nearby alley.

1377152_35794384The Lesson

Sunio is now encouraging others to lock their outdoor breakers. If a burglar cuts off your power supply, you may find yourself stranded in the dark, or worse, completely unable to access your home security system. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your security system has a backup power supply, whether in the form of a battery or an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). If your system uses a backup battery, make sure to check it often to ensure that it doesn’t require replacement.

Additional Tips

Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about optimizing your home security system to withstand a power outage, but what if you don’t have a security system to begin with? If your home lacks a safety net, now is the time to do something about it. A home without a security system is three times more likely to be burglarized, so don’t underestimate the importance of professional home security. Oh, and if you see strange men watching your home from a nearby alley, you should probably call the police.

If you’re looking for a top-grade home security system at an affordable price, check out the wide selection at Home Security Store. Arm your home with the ultimate protection, and experience renewed peace of mind as a result.  

How To Avoid High Alarm Monitoring Fees

alarm-monitoring-feeHigh alarm monitoring fees are a drag. In fact, the avoidance of these fees is one of the main reason that so many homeowners go without home security monitoring. As dangerous and ill-advised as doing so may be, we understand why this happens.

Despite the fact that we are sympathetic to the plight of homeowners when it comes to avoiding high security monitoring fees, we are not content to allow a lack of monitoring to exist with any of our customers. Hopefully, you all feel the same way and will not only take this subject seriously, but will also spread the word to your friends and family members. And by word, we mean the following tips on how to avoid high monthly alarm monitoring fees:

Beware Of Home Security Tricksters

We’ve discussed this many times right here on this blog, but if you are a first-time reader please listen up. Some of the biggest names in the home security business are unapologetic in taking advantage of customers just like you. See, with promises of low-cost or free equipment and discounted installations, these companies gain significant profits by overcharging on monitoring fees. Know this and avoid this tactic by first opting for DIY home security devices and thus rendering these companies both useless and unnecessary for your household’s protection.

Say Goodbye to Monitoring Middlemen

Installing your own home security devices is a good start, but to truly avoid the high cost of alarm monitoring, it will be necessary to cut the middleman out completely. It helps to note that home security companies that attempt to sell alarm monitoring rarely (if ever) actually do the monitoring themselves. Instead, they contract with a professional monitoring company who charges a far more reasonable rate for service. Customers never realize this true rate, however, since the middleman is notorious for inflating the cost of service to the end consumer and pocketing the difference themselves.

The easiest and most cost-effective way of cutting the middleman out without sacrificing quality and professional monitoring is to go direct to the source. We highly recommend Alarm Relay where, as a Home Security Store customer, you can enjoy a rate of just $8.95 per month for professional grade monitoring from a UL certified central station. This low-cost, first rate monitoring is offered at up to a 300% savings of what typical home security companies offer for the exact same service. How’s that for avoiding high alarm monitoring fees?

Consider DIY Remote Alarm Monitoring

Alarm monitoring fees are completely eliminated with DIY remote monitoring devices like the Envisalink Internet Alert Module for DSC and Honeywell Security systems. Anyone with a smartphone can receive instant alerts whenever home security has been breached. Homeowners can also remotely look in on a home at anytime from anywhere they may be. This, of course, is all at no additional cost.

Professional Monitoring Vs. Remote Monitoring

We have to be honest here. While DIY remote monitoring is, by far, the most economical choice for alarm monitoring, it is not necessarily the best. If a smartphone is ever lost or even if a battery is simply low or an owner is in a poor service area, alerts may not be received in a timely fashion. At such times, actual remote monitoring capabilities may be limited or completely nonexistent. This is not to suggest that remote monitoring is not a good option for some, only that nothing beats live monitoring by a professional service provider, such as Alarm Relay. While there is a monthly fee associated with this option, it is far less than what can be found elsewhere for a comparable service.

The Final Word on High Alarm Monitoring Fees

Now that you know why the standard monitoring fees charged by most home security companies are so high, we hope that you will select a better alternative. While alarm monitoring is optional for DIY home security, we hope that you realize that it is still a very necessary component of your overall plan to protect your family and your home. If opting for professional monitoring, for little more than $100 for an entire year’s service, homeowners can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that a professionally trained team of alarm monitors are paying vigilant attention to a security system and are ready to spring into action on a family’s behalf at the first sign of a security risk.

Tell Us About Your Alarm Monitoring Experiences

We are always interested in hearing your take on various home security topics. Do you have direct experience with alarm monitoring? If you’ve encountered excessive alarm monitoring fees or have a story to tell about how a monitored system helped save your family from potential harm, we’d love to hear all about it in the space provided below.

The 25 Most Burglarized U.S. Cities

top cities for burglary

The FBI maintains comprehensive crime data for major cities across the U.S.

What are the odds that you’ll become the victim of a burglary? It depends largely on where you live. Each year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation collects and organizes data on a variety of criminal behaviors (violent crime, murder, assault, property crime…) in major cities across the nation. Burglary is one of the crimes assessed by the bureau, and it may surprise you to learn where some of our most popular cities rank on the spectrum.

The Top 10 Cities

The data below is from 2012, the most recent year for which we have comprehensive statistics. You can view the complete list at the FBI website, along with detailed numeric breakdowns. The FBI measures crime rates as rations per every 100,000 citizens in the population, since cities can vary dramatically in population size.

  1. Cleveland, Ohio (2,473.5 per 100,000)
  2. Toledo, Ohio (2,352.6 per 100,000)
  3. Memphis, Tennessee (1,912.7 per 100,000)
  4. Detroit, Michigan (1,907.5 per 100,000)
  5. Cincinnati, Ohio (1,851.1 per 100,000)
  6. Indianapolis, Indiana (1,761.6 per 100,000)
  7. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (1,654.4 per 100,000)
  8. St. Louis, Missouri (1,564.6 per 100,000)
  9. Tulsa, Oklahoma (1,563.0 per 100,000)
  10. Oakland, California (1,544.0 per 100,000)
  11. Buffalo, New York (1,515.0 per 100,000)
  12. Kansas City, Missouri (1,500.6 per 100,000)
  13. Stockton, California (1,476.4 per 100,000)
  14. Atlanta, Georgia (1,416.8 per 100,000)
  15. Bakersfield, California (1,404.0 per 100,000)
  16. Dallas, Texas (1,296.0 per 100,000)
  17. Baltimore, Maryland (1,242.3 per 100,000)
  18. Minneapolis, Minnesota (1,225.4 per 100,000)
  19. Houston, Texas (1,223.1 per 100,000)
  20. Greensboro, North Carolina (1,211.4 per 100,000)
  21. Albuquerque, New Mexico (1,205.9 per 100,000)
  22. Phoenix, Arizona (1,205.8 per 100,000)
  23. Fresno, California (1,166.4 per 100,000)
  24. Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1,164.0 per 100,000)
  25. San Antonio, Texas (1,135.3 per 100,000)

Some Interesting Trends

380811_4257

Cleveland, Ohio ranks #1 in the nation for burglaries.

  • Ohio holds 3 of the top 5 spots (including the number 1 and number 2 spots) for burglaries, with Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati.
  • Among the top 50 cities for burglary, California is ranked 6 times: Oakland (#10), Stockton (#13), Bakersfield (#15), Fresno (#23), Sacramento (#38) and Long Beach (#47).
  • Only Texas has more cities than California in the top 50, with 7 in total: Dallas (#16), Houston (#19), San Antonio (#25), Fort Worth (#27), Arlington (#39), Austin (#42) and Corpus Christi (#50).
  • New York City, which was once a bastion of criminal activity, actually ranks at #74 for burglaries in major cities. In cities with a population of 250,000 or more, the Big Apple ranks at the very bottom.

America’s Safest Cities

Now that we’ve discussed some of the nation’s most crime-ridden cities, what are some of the safest places to call home? Despite all the doom and gloom, America is actually becoming much safer overall. For instance, robbery rates dropped 38% between 1992 and 2011, according to the FBI. Last year, Business Insider compiled a list of America’s safest cities, also based on FBI crime data. Here are the top 10:

  1. Irvine, California (robbery rate 86% below average)
  2. Fremont, California (robbery rate 47% below average)
  3. Plano, Texas (robbery rate 65% below average)
  4. Madison, Wisconsin (robbery rate 11% below average)
  5. Irving, Texas (robbery rate 47% below average)
  6. Scottsdale, Arizona (robbery rate 55% below average)
  7. Boise, Idaho (robbery rate 73% below average)
  8. Henderson, Nevada (robbery rate 43% below average)
  9. Chandler, Arizona (robbery rate 46% below average)
  10. Chula Vista, California (robbery rate 20% below average)

Protect Your Home

Your geographic location may impact your likelihood of being robbed, but a burglary can happen anywhere, and it’s important to protect yourself and your family. If you don’t already have an alarm installed in your home, it may be time to invest in a quality home security system. By taking simple steps to secure your family and belongings, you can prevent the unthinkable from happening, whether you reside within the low-crime borders of Irvine, California, or within the burglary-prone reaches of Cleveland, Ohio.

Home Surveillance and Big Brother?

SurveillanceDaily newspapers are filled with accounts of people expressing their serious concerns about privacy issues in America. From social networks to Internet searches, our lives can sometimes read like an open book and we are constantly being reminded about protecting personal and sensitive information. When it comes to home security, however, most tend to think that certain specialized devices are designed to protect our privacy and control who has access to the more personal things that we value. Yet, right now, some are issuing strong words of caution about privacy as home surveillance cameras, in particular, may soon be used by law enforcement agencies in order to electronically peer more closely into streets and neighborhoods.

Private Home Surveillance in the Fight against Public Crimes?

Soon, law enforcement officers in San Jose, California may be able to use home security cameras in their fight against crime. As I write this, a proposal is set to be addressed at a city council meeting in early February. Under this proposal, residents would voluntarily register their own home security cameras on a police database which would allow officers to immediately access data from those systems whenever a crime occurs in a particular area.

While some citizens do currently volunteer footage that may be helpful in solving crimes, the process of identifying who has cameras, determining where cameras are located and asking for permission to review footage takes additional time and effort during an investigation. Having cameras already registered in a database and permission granted, however, helps to accelerate this process and allows officers to have immediate access to registered video feeds. It should also be noted that the proposal does not request access to live feeds, only those that have been pre-recorded in an area where a specific crime has occurred.

Privacy Concerns

Privacy activists have taken real issue with the potential misuse of cameras registered in such a database. Some do not trust agencies to not use cameras outside of the proposal’s intended purpose. More specifically, some citizens have outright questioned whether this sort of voluntary access is nothing more than a step in the direction of neighborhoods eventually being under 24/7 live surveillance. Opponents have even been very candid in questioning whether certain rogue individuals would misuse the system to tap into live feeds despite policies in place that would limit or otherwise forbid them from doing so.

Could Police Access to Private Surveillance Cameras Become a Trend?

Officials in San Jose are not alone in their proposal to allow law enforcement access to private security cameras. For example, since private surveillance cameras were used to capture the culprits accused of initiating the Boston Marathon bombings, support for a private surveillance camera database has grown in places like Worcester, Massachusetts. While ACLU Senior Policy Analyst, Jay Stanley, criticizes this type of filming as ‘little brother’ surveillance, others prefer for law enforcement to have access to such footage if it will derail similar incidents or result in the capture of criminals. In some places, like New Orleans where the SafeCams8 project is in full effect, private citizens have been eager to lend a hand (or lend a cam…as in footage) in order to help reduce crime. Cities with similar programs or initiatives include Philadelphia and Chicago.

How Might Criminals Respond?

As our longtime readers already know, home surveillance systems are effective burglar deterrents. Even at the sight of fake cameras like the Bullet Dummy Camera which looks exactly like the real thing, criminals are likely to avoid committing a crime where evidence is being recorded on tape. Just as they do when realizing the presence of other security devices such as burglar alarms, and security lighting, criminals would rather bypass a home equipped with one or more cameras in order to find an easier target with no security whatsoever.

What, then, might burglars make of surveillance cameras that offer police immediate access to their criminal evidence? Is it possible that databases like these might help reduce crime, overall? At this time, no agency is able to tap into the live feeds of a private outdoor home surveillance system, but what would happen if they could? Might this be an effective way to reduce crime? Especially in high incident areas?

Useful Surveillance or Big Brother?

As with the capture of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, we know that private surveillance footage can be useful in solving crimes. What are your thoughts about the long-term implications of giving government agencies access to private home security cameras for this purpose in the future, though? Undoubtedly, everyone reading this would be open to volunteering their footage on an as-needed basis if it could help solve a crime, but can you ever imagine yourself registering your outdoor cameras with a local database? Why or why not? We’re interested in hearing your take on this and look forward to the discussion below

 

Webcam Surveillance Is a Terrible Idea

WebcamMore than once I’ve seen bloggers and others recommend using webcam surveillance for low cost home security. What people don’t realize, however, is that while this method works in theory, it is still a very flimsy method of securing one’s home. For one thing, a webcam is far too easy to disable. These types of systems are also typically easy for a determined thief to hack into. Anyone serious about home security is advised to invest in a true video surveillance system instead of relying on the hit-or-miss security offered by a webcam.

Taking DIY Too Far

We understand people wanting to save money. Heck, it’s one of the reasons why we are such staunch advocates of DIY home security in the first place. Retail security vendors are overcharging consumers for equipment and services which can be had at far more affordable costs if they are self-installed or if consumers are allowed to deal directly with monitoring service providers such as Alarm Relay. We get it. We also offer the best solutions to this dilemma by bringing you affordable and effective DIY home security options.

There is such a thing as taking DIY too far, however. Attempting to protect a home by using equipment that was not intended for home security falls into this category. A webcam is great for face-to-face conversations, but using one for home security is risky at best.

Who’s Afraid Of a Webcam?

Certainly not a burglar! In part, the purpose of good home security devices is the psychological buttons they push in a criminal’s mind. This is why deterrents are so effective. Home security equipment registers as a threat in eyes of an intruder and, upon sight, most will bypass a home with deterrents in plain view in search of a home which doesn’t appear to be protected, instead. Fake security cameras are even recommended for this purpose since gadgets like the WINN Imitation Dummy Camera look exactly like the real thing to a thief.

A webcam, on the other hand, isn’t likely to trigger much fear or second-thought in a trespasser’s mind. Most know how to easily enough disable such a device and are far less likely to stop their criminal activity in order to avoid being recorded by one. Simply put, encountering a webcam is just too easy for a thief to workaround.

What Would a Burglar Do?

Think about this: what do you think a burglar will do when he realizes that he is being caught on tape by a laptop’s camera? Do you think he will:

A. Slam the laptop shut

B. Add the laptop to his booty

C. Destroy the laptop

D. All of the above

If, by chance, the thief isn’t in the neighborhood for a computer (yes, fat chance, but work with me here). Or if, by chance, he doesn’t notice that he is being filmed…do you still believe that he will remain in one room during his visit to your home? What happens when he leaves a webcam’s limited vision field?

Unless you’re going to set a webcam up in several different rooms, webcam devices simply can’t hold a candle to a multi-channel system like the 4-Channel DVR Surveillance Kit offered in our store. Can a webcam even record outdoor activity even in poor weather conditions like such a device can?

I’ve even seen bloggers recommend using Skype or a similar videoconferencing program to communicate with the burglar to try to fool him into believing that someone is in the home and that help is on the way. Just thinking about such a scenario makes me laugh as I type this. I’m sure it will make a burglar laugh if you try it, too. This, my friends, is no way to secure a home. For real remote surveillance activity, the Lasertech Security System Cameras offer a far superior solution.

Hacking Your Webcam

In addition to being a lousy deterrent and an even worse surveillance tool, a webcam just may work in a burglar’s favor. We’ve explained many times before that a prowler could be the teenager next door or may be someone willing to take the time to stake your house out a time or two before actually burglarizing it. With the right amount of expertise, upon learning that you rely on webcam surveillance for home security, a crook just may hack into your system and secretly peer into your home in order to find out if its occupied, get an idea of your house’s layout or even to scope out the valuables in a room before his arrival.

We Understand– We Just Disagree

Some of the most often cited reasons for using a webcam surveillance for home security is cost. A lot of people just are not aware of the low-cost and effective alternatives provided through a DIY surveillance installation. Where years ago the cost of CCTV equipment and its installation was out of the range of an average homeowner’s budget, this just isn’t the case anymore. Therefore, skimping on something so important and using a method as unreliable as webcam surveillance just isn’t practical to your home security needs.

What Do You Think About Webcam Surveillance?

Do you think that webcam surveillance is an effective home security tactic? Are you currently using a webcam for this purpose? We are always interested in the thoughts and opinions of our readers, so please take a moment to leave yours below.

Ralph Winn

Points of Discussion For Your Next Neighborhood Watch Meeting

Neighborhood_Watch_MeetingBefore you put the finishing touches on the agenda for your next neighborhood watch meeting, we’d like to offer a few suggestions of our own. In addition to concerns unique to your area, there are a few additional home security issues that you should be aware of. For one, did you know that some city police departments are no longer responding to certain burglar alarms? There’s good reason for this, so keep reading to find out why. Also, consider discussing a very thorough study indicating that areas densely populated with burglar alarms experience lower burglary rates.

(Note: If you do not have a neighborhood watch group in your area yet, read our article on how to start one and consider the following topics for your first meeting.)

Local Police Departments Deliberately Ignore Burglar Alarms?

This sounds like a bad Internet rumor, but it’s completely true. Cities like Los Angeles and Milwaukee are fed up with responding to false alarms and will no longer respond to one that has not first been verified as legitimate by a monitoring company or the alarm’s owner. While policies like these may seem drastic to some, consider that in Los Angeles false alarms in the past have counted for upwards of 90% of all alarm responses. And, in Milwaukee, the citizens of that city agreed that something needed to be done as nearly 97% of some 30,000 alarm responses were deemed to be false prior to their policy change. Since ignoring unverified alarms, however, Milwaukee’s false alarm response rate dropped to only 38% of 620 responses being false in 2012.

Before meeting with your neighborhood watch group, you may want to check with your local police department to find out if any similar policy changes have taken place in your area. If not, find out if this might be a concern in the near future and how your group can help reduce the false alarm response rate in your city. For more tips on how to do so, read a couple of our earlier posts on this very subject.

Is Your Alarm Monitoring Company Properly Registered?

Taking the conversation about alarm responses even further, in Colorado Springs police are not required to respond to certain alarms even if they are verified as being legitimate by a monitoring company. It should be noted that this policy applies strictly to alarm monitoring companies that are not properly registered or that have allowed previously granted permits to lapse.

Once again, speak to your local police department about their policies with regards to the permit status of alarm monitoring companies. For your neighbors who have alarms monitored by companies that are not in good standing, strongly suggest that they change services immediately. We highly recommend Alarm Relay which has more than a decade of UL certification to their credit and offers top-notch monitoring for a mere $8.95 per month. Your neighbors will thank you for passing this recommendation on as they’ll save money on this service (other companies charge hundreds of dollars per year) and can rest assured that alarms will always be responded to by your local authorities when called upon.

How Do You Feel About Non-Response Issues?

Whether these policies apply to your city (yet) or not, specifically ask your group how they feel about law enforcement agencies not responding to alarms. Ask how they think criminals will take advantage of these positions. Lastly, discuss strategies to ensure that no one in your group has an alarm that is ignored by authorities.

Burglars Avoid Neighborhoods With a Lot of Alarms

I recently ran across a study conducted by Rutgers University, which concluded that neighborhoods where “burglar alarms were densely installed” experience lower burglary rates. Most reading this already know that alarms are the hands-down best deterrents for protecting a property against burglary, but this study suggests that crime can be lowered, overall, in areas where neighbors ban together in taking a hard stance against crime by installing home security systems in every home on the block.

You may even want to suggest a DIY weekend for everyone without an alarm system to install one. Share with your group the affordable options offered here at the Home Security Store and how easily you were able to install your own system. For those of you who already have an alarm, who want to further secure your homes and who want to stand in solidarity with members participating in the DIY weekend event, we suggest expanding an existing system with security lighting, glass break detectors, CCTV cameras or any of the other DIY home security items featured on our main site.

What’s On Your Agenda?

What else do you plan to discuss at your next neighborhood watch meeting? Do you have any other important points of discussion you’d like to share with our readers? Make note of anything that we may have missed or simply share your thoughts on our agenda suggestions in the comments section below.
Ralph Winn

The History of the Burglar Alarm

first-alarm-systemEver wonder about the history of the burglar alarm? Okay, perhaps not. Now that we’ve brought it to your attention, though, you’re probably a wee bit curious about the background of this lone device which eventually created today’s booming home security industry. You may also be surprised to learn about the unique connection that the burglar alarm shares with the history and evolution of the telephone.

The Inventor

Originally patented by Unitarian minister Reverend Augustus Russell Pope in 1853, the first burglar alarm was a relatively simple electro-magnetic device. Battery operated; an open door would set a spring in motion, which would then cause a bell hammer to repeatedly strike a loud bell. Door and window sensors would later be created in order to connect these entry points to an alarm through a series of wires. Originally this was not the case, however, and individual alarm devices were needed for each window and door in a home.

The Visionary

Despite Pope being on record as the true creator, it was Edwin Holmes who is actually credited as being the father of today’s burglar alarm. Turns out that Reverend Pope was a great inventor, but ailing health and poor marketing skills prevented him from doing much more with his creation. It was Holmes who purchased Pope’s patent sometime between 1857 and 1858 and it was Holmes whose name is cemented in history for bringing the burglar alarm to the masses.

A door-to-door salesman turned shopkeeper specializing in household goods, Holmes did not originally plan on a career in the home security industry. Believing in the need for such a device though, he purchased the patent after his own business, which he shared with his brother, was declared insolvent by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Considering his own position, it can be said that Holmes really took a leap of faith with the burglar alarm and aren’t we all glad that he did?

The Home Security Industry is Born

It wasn’t long before Holmes established a brand new business centered around introducing the burglar alarm to the general public. The Holmes Burglar Alarm Company (later changed to the Holmes Electric Protective Company) initially catered to the Boston area, but soon expanded to several other cities. In several stories, it has been noted that Holmes regarded New York as being a haven for the well-to-do in addition to being a high crime area, particularly for burglaries. As his Massachusetts-based home security business continued to grow, he eventually moved his family to New York where he opened a new division of his company.

With a strong marketing background, Holmes was considered a master at convincing people that they needed burglar alarms both in their homes and at their businesses. At this same time, electricity was not yet widely used in households which were mostly still being lit by candles and gas lamps. That these very first burglar alarms were powered by electricity means that such a technology was not easily understood, nor was it regulated to protect consumers. Holmes would not be deterred by the public’s lack of experience with electricity and alarms, however, and went on to publish frightening accounts of big city crimes in order to illustrate the need for his product. His marketing campaigns proved to be quite successful and, eventually, Holmes had established a network of more than 1,000 burglar alarms in New York.

The Burglar Alarm’s Role in the Telephone’s History

Along with starting the first home security company, Edwin Holmes was also the first to install a telephone switchboard at his Boston offices before using a similar system in his New York office. Prior to his vision for a more effective system for business communication, Holmes used Alexander Graham Bell’s hand phone. With these early instruments, a caller used a special line to leave a message at what was known as a central station and an operator from that station used a separate line to then deliver that message to its intended recipient. This method resulted in multiple telephones physically being housed at a station for incoming and outgoing messages.

Holmes son, Edwin Thomas Holmes, however, soon realized that existing wiring for the alarm system at their own business (which were already being used for telephone communication during business hours) could also be used as a switchboard system where multiple phone lines could run through a single location on a switchboard and an operator could connect a hand phone to plug into any of these lines. Messages would still be relayed through an operator, but this unique way of wiring a system eliminated the physical need for multiple telephones and also allowed businesses to house their own switchboards.

For a time, Holmes served as president of Bell Telephone Company, which would later become American Telephone and Telegraph Company (today known as AT&T Corp). This same company eventually bought Holmes’ thriving home security business and the rest is, as they say, history.

All Eyes on You

Do you have anything to add about the history of the burglar alarm? What are your thoughts about the future of the home security industry? The home automation industry? We look forward to reading what you have to share in the space provided for your comments below.

Ralph Winn

Victims Use Built-In GPS on iPhone to Find Burglar

At 23 years old, you should have a firm understanding on today’s technology. iPhones aren’t anything new. GPS went main-stream more than 6 years ago and there is no place in the world that you can hide from Siri or the On-Star lady, unless you turn your ‘Location Services’ setting off and even then- somebody somewhere (*cough* US Government *cough*)is always tracking a smart phone’s whereabouts.

I’m not an expert on iPhones or Droids, but even I could tell you these simple facts. Either oblivious, delirious or plain stupid, 23 year old Timothy Patrick from Arcadian Park, South Carolina somehow managed to let this very common, very public knowledge slip his mind the night of Friday, September 21st in Charleston, SC (according to WTOC-TV 11, Southeastern Georgia).

Charleston PD Information Officer Charles Francis said Patrick had broken in to a downtown apartment and stolen several items, including 2 iPhones. The victims woke up about 7am the next morning and tracked the phones to two downtown cross streets. There they found Patrick carrying one of their book bags that was also stolen during the burglary. They notified the police and Patrick was taken in to custody and charged with first-degree burglary as well as possession of marijuana and another controlled substance.

Without a doubt- he is our dumb criminal of the week. I don’t know the Charleston area well, but let’s put some pieces of this story together to try to understand the nature of this criminal and how we prevent similar morons in the future from intruding on our lives.

First unintelligent choice: Patrick didn’t power down the iPhones. It’s the only way to get an iPhone off the grid. It’s almost as if he was waiting for a call…

Second unintelligent choice: Downtown areas are always populated. First he steals from a downtown apartment, and then he takes a Saturday morning stroll around… downtown? I guess we’re passed the era of getaway cars and hide-outs?

Third unintelligent choice: Wearing around a stolen book bag. I mean- come on man. Why don’t you just paint a target on yourself? And while you’re at it, use one of the stolen iPhones, post a picture of you and your righteous new bag on Facebook, ‘check-in’ with your cross streets and make sure the Charleston Police Department is ‘following’ you. Heck, you might even get a ‘Like’ on your pic, bro.

What can we learn from Patrick, who- might I add- was already on probation for another burglary? I can assure you that not all criminals are this dumb. Some are- and for these slow thinking prowlers, a simple door-window sensor or trip wire system near the front and back doors of your home or business will probably be enough to at least scare them away.

For the burglars who find weak points on your property- we always recommend a camera system. With a home surveillance system, you now have visual proof of what your criminal looks like. If they escape their attempted burglary unscathed, their picture will now be on public display because of your cameras- and for the innocence they steal from you, they’ll lose their own in public. Just in case they put a little more tact into their iPhone-napping than Good Ole’ Tim.

Ralph Winn

 

 

See the article on wtoc.com here.

Important Facts About Hybrid Alarm Systems

KIT16-QP63CP01In a nutshell, a hybrid alarm system is one where hardwired and wireless devices are both utilized in order to create one whole security system. For example, a home’s security alarm may have been installed as a hardwired system when the home was built, but has since been expanded to include a wireless surveillance system and a wireless intercom system. Conversely, this home may even feature a wireless alarm system and a hardwired surveillance kit with remote capabilities. As both of these scenarios feature both hardwired and wireless devices, either would be considered a hybrid system.

Why Would Anyone Need a Hybrid System?

Technically, as long as a home has a security system, no one needs a hybrid system. A homeowner may choose to go completely wireless or with a complete hardwired system. We recommend both according to a home’s structure and its owner’s preference.

Some may want a hybrid system, however, as it increases one’s options when choosing to expand an existing system. While Home Security Store sells a healthy number of devices in each category, some of our customers may prefer one type of system over another but when building a hybrid alarm system, there isn’t any worry with sticking to hardwired devices or wireless ones. A lot will also depend on a home’s structure and aesthetic. It is not uncommon for hardwired systems to have been installed during a home’s building phase. Once the home is completely finished, however, some homeowners simply do not wish to drill through walls or floorboards in order to add more devices to a home’s existing security system.

Why Expand a System To Begin With?

If you’ve only a single alarm system, you may believe that it is all that is needed. In actuality, however, a lone alarm is simply a very good first step in the right direction, but you’re not quite there yet in terms of fully protecting your home. An alarm system may keep intruders out or it may alert you to when an intruder is trying to break in, but it will not give you live video of an event, nor will it provide photographic evidence like a surveillance system will. You may also want to consider automatic security lighting, a video intercom system and a driveway or a garage alarm in order to be notified as soon as someone approaches your home. All of these devices can be added to an existing alarm system and every homeowner should consider increasing security in these ways and more.

Considerations Which May Lead To a Hybrid Security System

Some of the things that you may want to consider when deciding between a hardwired, wireless or hybrid security system include:

       How hard are the walls where wiring may be hidden? If very hard (such as stone or brick), you’ll definitely want to consider a wireless device.

       How large is the home where the system will be expanded and how far away will devices be from other parts needed for reliable communication between devices? If a home is particularly large in terms of square footage, a hardwired device may be a better option.

       How old is the original security system currently being used? Some systems may be much older than new components being added. In this case, it may be necessary to update the original alarm system altogether. A hybrid system may still be a good choice, but it really depends on whether the original system can be expanded to accommodate these new more modern devices or not. If you’re unsure of whether this applies to you or not, our support team is more that willing to answer any questions that you may have.

Expanded Options

So if you’re thinking about expanding your home security system as part of a DIY project, we want you to think about expanding your options to include a full array of devices whether hardwired or wireless. In our main store, you’ll find devices that can easily be part of a hybrid system like the GE Security NX-8 Wireless Ready Kit, the Honeywell Security System and the Ademco Vista Talking Alarm Kit. Remember that all of our devices come with detailed instructions, as well as tech support.

Sound Off

Do you have a hybrid system? What does it consist of? What made you opt for this type of system? If you do not currently own a hybrid security system, but you’d like to, what are your questions or concerns about this type of security? What sort of device(s) are you considering adding to your existing system? As always, we welcome your thoughts, concerns and questions below.

Ralph Winn