Home security systems in demand near Erie as burglaries increase
Jan 09, 2013 (Erie Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Grant and May Miller bought their first home security system when they bought their first home in 1985.
The house was a significant investment, and they wanted to protect it.
"From what I understand, the reason that most people get a security system is because their home has been burglarized. I thought it made more sense to be proactive, like buying insurance before you're sick," Grant Miller said.
The Millers updated security through the years and recently bought a next-generation system for their new home off Grubb Road in Millcreek Township. They've also bought alarms for each location of their tanning business, Sun Your Buns.
The sophisticated systems detect unauthorized entry, suspicious motion, breaking glass, fire, carbon monoxide and power failure, and notify authorities when anything's amiss.
"I just sleep better knowing we have protection from fire or possible burglary," Grant Miller said.
Staying out of the statistics
It's that peace of mind that triggers most home security sales, said Matt Reiser, Erie district manager for Doyle Security, which installed and monitors the Millers' security systems.
While modern security systems additionally can regulate home lighting and temperature and even alert parents when children get home from school, preventing crime is still the No. 1 reason customers buy the systems, Reiser said.
"People just want to protect their home, both while they're gone and while they're there," he said.
With good reason. There were almost 2.2 million burglaries in the United States in 2011, up about 1 percent from 2010, according to FBI crime statistics. And people are increasingly aware that burglaries and other crimes can and do happen in their neighborhood, Reiser said.
"With services like ErieAlerts, people see what's happening in their neighborhood and are more concerned than they ever were," Reiser said.
ErieAlerts is a kind of electronic Neighborhood Watch initiative that notifies subscribers about burglaries and other crime in their neighborhoods via text message almost as soon as they're reported. It's sponsored by the Erie County District Attorney's Office.
"In the past, people always knew this kind of thing was going on but maybe didn't think it touched them as much," Reiser said.
Home security systems do deter burglars, who see a sign in the yard or decal on a door or window, and go somewhere else, Reiser said.
"Studies have shown it, and I've been in this business 15 years and have seen it: When there are three houses in a row and the house on the left and the house on the right both have security signs in the yard, it's the house in the middle that gets broken into."
The Millers' first home security system was comparatively "primitive." A rounded key, like a vending machine key, armed and disarmed it.
"When you turned the key in the box, a blinking red light indicated that the system was armed. It looked like something you'd see in the movies when someone launched a missile," Miller said.
Security technology has since evolved at near-warp speed. Electronic monitoring systems can not only do much more than they did a few years ago but can also do it better, Reiser said.
"Most motion systems, for instance, are now pet immune up to 80 pounds. A dog or a cat walking around the house isn't going to set off motion detectors, unless it's a large Rottweiler or German shepherd. A man walking through the house will," Reiser said.
Most systems today can be armed, disarmed or otherwise managed remotely.
"I can be sitting on the beach in Florida and use a smart phone or iPad to see what's going on inside and outside the house," Grant Miller said. "I could pull up the camera system right now and watch the cats sleeping in the house if I wanted to."
Also, alarms previously sent to the security company via telephone lines are now sent wirelessly, so that companies will be notified of a breach even if the home's phone lines are cut.
When an alarm is triggered, a siren goes off in the home and the security company contacts the homeowner to determine if it was triggered by something other than an unwanted intruder. If not, the police or fire department is contacted, Reiser said.
Residents at home at the time of a fire or break-in can also press a panic button to summon help.
But even smart security systems still have some things to learn, including the difference between intruders and Mylar balloons.
"They're notorious for setting off alarms," Reiser said. "They float around the house, and they're reflective. And some of them last for weeks."
Electronic security features and prices vary widely, according to industry analysts, who recommend that potential buyers determine the features that they need, and then shop around.
According to Consumer Reports magazine, cost is $1 to $2 per square foot for a complete security system, plus about $25 a month for monitoring.
In the Erie area, average prices range from about $200 for a basic system to $4,000 for a sophisticated system with cameras, Reiser, of Doyle Security, said. "It's going to depend on the company, the system and the size of the house."
Monthly monitoring fees average $20 to $35, Reiser said.
It's money well-spent, said Grant Miller, whose family includes one son, G.T., currently home from college. Miller's mother also has an electronic security system in her home.
"I feel good knowing that if something ever happens, my family and home are protected," he said.
Less expensive are do-it-yourself kits and components available from some hardware and big-box home stores. Door and window alarms, motion detectors and video surveillance systems are priced individually but in most cases are not professionally installed.
VALERIE MYERS can be reached at 878-1913 or by e-mail. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNmyers.
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