Why Alarms and Security Cameras Don’t Make You Safer

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When homeowners think of protecting their homes, they typically think of security systems. At this point, there are plenty of home security alarm options available, from a simple doorbell with a camera to a complicated system filled with motion sensors, multiple cameras, spotlights, and most importantly, an automatic line to the alarm company if something (or someone) trips the system. 

Regardless of how effective home security alarm systems actually are, they have become a standard on homes across the economic spectrum. You can assume most houses have some sort of alarm on them, but home invasions are still a common crime. 

According to the FBI, over 7 million property crime offenses were committed in 2018, totaling $16.4 billion in losses. This amount includes stolen property, as well as damages incurred by the criminals in question, such as broken down doors, shattered windows, or arson. This does not necessarily reflect the violence toward homeowners or inhabitants during home invasions or robberies.

If there are still so many property crimes when alarm systems are more prevalent than ever,  does that mean home security systems don’t work? Or that criminals are choosing homes without alarm systems? Or does it mean they know how to get around the alarm?

And if home security alarms are not effective, why do people keep installing them?

Let’s get into these questions and what you can do to keep your home and your family safe — not just at night, but at all hours of the day.

Breaking and Entering

Front doors are where many home invasions begin. Many criminals looking to enter a home unlawfully first walk right up to the front door of their target and simply knock on it, or ring the doorbell to see if anyone is home. 

A photo of a fortified and secure front door.

An Oregon news station conducted a survey among inmates doing time for home invasion to determine their methods for how they chose their targets — the types of neighborhoods they looked for, what made them choose one home over another, etc — how they entered the homes, and what might act as a deterrent. 

If someone did answer the door, they’d have a prepared rouse for explaining their presence:

Have you seen my dog — black with white spots?  

Oh, I’m sorry, I have the wrong house. Sorry to bother you.

Hi, I’m conducting a survey in the area for a local cable provider and I was wondering if you’d have a few minutes to answer some questions.

If they were fairly certain no one was home (no one came to the door, and they didn’t hear movement inside), they’d proceed as planned in trying to enter the home. As for how they entered, there were a variety of answers, but many of the inmates who responded simply kicked down the door. 

The inmates were less likely to break a window. Doing so would risk them cutting themselves, which would mean they were injured and may require medical attention, but also it could mean leaving behind drops of blood with which they could be identified. Additionally, they mentioned that neighbors were more likely to be alarmed by the sound of breaking glass, as opposed to one loud bang from kicking in a door.

As far as deterrents named by the inmates, large dogs were oftentimes listed, but if you watch the video in the news story, you’ll watch two large dogs run away when a masked man kicks in the door. (Small dogs were unsurprisingly not a deterrent at all.)

Other interesting items on the list of deterrents were things like hearing a television or radio on, seeing lights on in the house, a car in the driveway, or even seeing blinds or curtains open. All of these things signal that a person might be home. So assuming the home invader who has just broken into your home is really just someone after your valuable belongings, these simple things may deter them from choosing your home to target. 

Alarms and security systems had mixed results among the inmates. Some felt they were a deterrent, while others knew how to either disable them or get around without setting them off. 

A photo of a fortified and secure bedroom door.

A former criminal-turned-consultant interviewed for the story also pointed out that people attempting to invade homes looked in well-off neighborhoods where there was more privacy surrounding homes. Privacy trees or shrubs often served as welcome mats for criminals because they were less likely to be seen by neighbors. Homes situated further apart, and in quiet neighborhoods where there was less likely to be a lot of foot traffic were also hot spots. 

The very neighborhoods we choose that make us feel safe and secure — the calm, quiet streets with plenty of privacy between neighbors — are actually making us more enticing targets for criminals. And unless we’re using them properly, our home security alarms may not be helping us very much. 

Failure Points in Home Security Systems

As the inmates in the survey suggested, home security alarm systems can be an effective deterrent for criminals. If someone is trying to get into your home unnoticed, setting off an alarm is the perfect way to spoil their plans. 

The problem is, many homeowners don’t use their security alarms properly. Why? Because security systems are a pain in the butt.

Depending on the home security system you install, you may have motion sensors placed strategically around the interior of your house, as well as the usual placements in the entrances to the home, and cameras. Some even allow you to set up zones for your house, so while you’re downstairs in the family room watching a movie, you can disable that zone so you’re free to get up for more popcorn or grab another drink. 

In the meantime, the rest of your house remains armed — the upstairs sensors are activated and all the door sensors are ready to alert the alarm company if a door opens. Then when you’re ready to go to bed, you can switch zones so everything downstairs is armed and the second floor allows for free movement. The kids can get up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, and no one will set off the alarm system.

However, not all home security systems allow for zoning, and some people simply can’t be bothered to set them up, or switch between zones throughout the day. Therefore, many homeowners keep their alarms off when they’re home so they don’t accidentally set it off. 

How effective can your home security system be if you’re not leaving it armed at all times?

Another failure point in security alarm systems is who the system notifies in the event of an emergency. If the alarm system is triggered — someone trips a motion sensor, someone breaks down a door, or throws something through a window — the system calls the alarm company. 

The alarm company determines if you’re having an actual emergency or if someone has accidentally triggered the system, and they do this by calling you, the homeowner.

A photo of an interior fortified and secure door.

Typically this means giving the home security system customer service representative some kind of code that will signal to them that everything is fine. (Hopefully, they also have a code on file that you can give them to signal you’re under duress, but that’s not a guarantee.) If you do not answer, they’ll notify the police. If you do answer and cannot confirm that it wasn’t a mistake, they’ll also notify police.

This third-party go-between costs valuable minutes, and will seem like hours if you’re in a dangerous situation in your home. Average police response times vary across the country — cities with major traffic may see higher response times, which is similar to a problem people in rural areas may experience, but because local sheriffs may have to drive farther to get to those in need.

If you’re home when your alarm system goes off, you may have to wait 10 minutes for police to arrive. If you’re not home, whoever broke into your house is bound to be long gone before the police even arrive, along with your Tiffany silver picture frames and priceless heirlooms, like your grandmother’s wedding ring.

And, as seen in the video in the news story, it’s likely that someone breaking into your home will wear a mask, so good luck getting any kind of useful evidence from your security cameras to hand over to the police. 

Do Home Security Systems Work?

The most effective home security alarm system is one that’s used properly. But as we just discussed: a good portion of the time, they’re not used properly. They’re turned off whenever people are home, they’re ignored when they go off because the family assumes the dog tripped a sensor, or the homeowner forgets to set the alarm.

To actually answer this question, you have to ask yourself what you want your security alarm to protect. Are you trying to protect your possessions, or your family?

If you want a home security alarm to protect your house and your possessions while you’re not there, it might work just fine. You can arm the system while you’re at work, on vacation, or even while you’re sleeping and unable to pay attention to noises or possible intruders. 

While home security systems are sometimes a deterrent for criminals, they’re largely a placebo for the homeowner. You may feel safer because you have the little sign in your front yard (which they also charge you for, by the way), but whether or not you’re actually safer may be another matter altogether.

If you want to protect yourself and your family, there are better ways to do it than a home security alarm system — and with far fewer failure points.

The Most Effective Home Security

The best home security system on the market is one you don’t have to think about. It’s the kind that is constantly working for you, whether you’re home or not. Fortified doors and windows will keep any intruder out of your home, regardless of their reason for being there. (Truly — you can shoot them with an AK-47 and they still won’t open or shatter.)

A photo of an interior fortified home security door.

Our fortified, ballistic doors are completely customizable to fit whatever design aesthetic you, your architect, and your interior designer have chosen for your luxury home. Whether you’re looking for interior doors, exterior doors, or both, we can build whatever you can dream of — single or double hinge doors, pivot, or arched. 

And most importantly, all of them can be manufactured to automatically close and automatically lock, so you never have to worry about whether or not you actually turned the deadbolt after you hauled all those groceries inside (in one trip — no one wants to make two trips).

Our number one goal is to provide you with the safety and security you need to sleep well at night, but we don’t want you to compromise on your existing or planned home finishings. We have a large variety of door coverings so that all your doors will match perfectly from basic essentials to completely extravagant — even the ones we didn’t make that aren’t fortified.

Sometimes people struggle to comprehend what we mean when we say that we can match your style — they seem skeptical that we’d be able to find the perfect materials. You don’t have to take our word for it, though. In order to really see what we can do, you’ll have to check out the galleries, which you can get to through each type of door here.

With our fortified doors and windows, you can turn your home into an impenetrable fortress that looks like a royal palace — no home security alarm system required. Feel free to check out our common questions page, browse our finishing options, and see the kind of high-tech keyless entry we can provide for you. Give us a call today or book an appointment at one of our showrooms to learn more about what we can do for you!

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