Burglar alarms and home security

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Because of a recent burglary, I am going to install an alarm system in my single-family ranch home (no basement)that I reside in alone. The street is a quiet, family-oriented one (no loud cars, boom boxes, tough-looking guys of any age).
The considerations (aimed at burglar detection): 1. A silent alarm so the cops might catch them in the act, vs. one that lights lights and beeps horns to scare them away (so they're free to strike elsewhere).
2. A silent alarm that signals me if I'm home, so I could defend myself with a gun. If I'm away, the alarm could notify a next-door neighbor, a monitoring service, or the police. Police allow three false alarms a year before charging. (I believe there are systems that will call my cell phone, but it's always off and in my car, as it is used only for calls that I originate.)
3. Beefed up barriers to entry, like locking bars for sliding doors, and high quality door locks. Problem is, if place looks too fortified, rather than being deterred burglars might see this as a sign that there is really valuable stuff inside and make a more determined (and damaging) effort to enter.
4. How easy is it to defeat? The incoming AC power cable is enclosed in heavy duty metal conduit. But it would be easy to cut the flimsy pin that locks the cover over the meter and simply remove the meter. The cable TV and phone lines are not enclosed and are easy to cut and thereby defeat ordinary landlines or phone service via the cable company. This forces a battery-backup wireless system.
5. Camera: Do they really do much good in deterring via their visible presence or in identifying a suspect that the cops catch?
Other measures (mainly home security):
1. Lights on timers. 2. Radio or TV on all the time. 3. Shades for the garage window so nobody can see if a car is present. In my neighborhood, a car is a necessity as it's a mile to a major highway. So if the garage is empty, it's a excellent indication that the house is empty also. 4. Locking bars on sliding doors. 5. Double-key deadbolts on doors with glass panes, so burglars can't break a window and simply reach in and unlock a single-key deadbolt. 6. Fake decals warning that a system is installed even if not true.
After writing the above, I came across a book on amazon.com called Essential Home Security: A Layman's Guide. Clicking on the Table of Contents link,
(Amazon.com product link shortened)33721382&sr=1-14#reader_1453732039
it appears to address my concerns and many, many factors that I have not considered. I can't tell, however, if he addresses defeating the systems (consideration 4 above).
One of the reviewers was annoyed because the book was self-published (so what?) and because there were no specific product recommendations. The other reviews gave it high marks for at least pointing out vulnerabilities you may have.
Thanks for your comments/feedback.
R1
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Noisy alarms will likely anger neighbors when they eventually false. False alarms also desensitize neighbors who then ignore them,or even file complaints.

Could you get home in time to DO anything? If you call the police to respond,you still have the problem of false alarms.

don't forget reinforced door jambs. often,burglars just use a crowbar to force open the door frame. a deadbolt is only as good as the door frame it slides into. First thing I did when I moved into my apartment was to install a big metal plate for the deadbolt,and long bolts into the stud beneath the flimsy trim piece of the frame. you can buy them at home improvement stores. if the door is wood,that is also a vulnerability,but they make reinforcing plates for them too. a wood door can split when hit hard,or pried upon with a crowbar.

it's pretty rare that a burglar will cut power/phone lines.

or on a timer.

or dark window tint.lets light in,but makes it too hard to see inside.

GOOD idea.

GOOD idea. I never liked having a window right next to a door.

Burglars are probably used to those.spot them a mile away.

the best defense is to make it too hard for them to get in,and to make them think someone is home so they don't try to get in. a major problem with an alarm is "who is going to respond to it?" Do you expect your neighbors to come over and check it out? there are monitored alarm systems that cost you a yearly subscription. I've heard not-good things about ADT.(I have no financial interest in any alarm company.)
you can get security cams that record to a (hidden)PC,and that you can even check your house out from online. they are good to see if you have outdoor prowlers,maybe peeking in windows to see if anyone's home. police have caught burglars who were recorded on security cams.
--
Jim Yanik
jyanik
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On 4/6/2012 12:31 PM, Jim Yanik wrote:

Everybody in my neighborhood has alarms and everybody ignores it when a neighbor's alarm goes off as 99% are false alarms. If your alarm goes directly to the police you risk a fine for a 2nd false alarm and a third will cost you more. Neighbor was complaining that it cost her $500 last year.
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On Fri, 06 Apr 2012 12:41:56 -0400, Frank

If you have false alarms something is wrong with your system, or your residents - and a $500 charge for the false alarms would be much better spent fixing the system.
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On Fri, 06 Apr 2012 15:49:46 -0400, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

You are correct. A correctly installed system shouldn't give false alarms. In my first home, it never happened for as long as I lived there (years). In my 2nd home, it did give false alarms for the first month till I had it adjusted correctly. Hasn't happened since for over a decade and counting. I've tripped it myself by accident so in that case I just shut it off or reset it.
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On 4/6/2012 3:48 PM, Doug wrote:

The one we had installed in the restaurant went off almost daily. Fu__ing thing was LOUD too. Often the cops would be there to help me open.
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On Fri, 06 Apr 2012 15:53:26 -0500, gonjah <gonjah.net> wrote:

Something DEFINITELY wrong then. At my brother's shop he has has 2 false alarms. One was when a jack handle fell on the floor and triggered a glass break alarm, and the other was after the overhead door company seviced the roll-up door - and we had a REAL strong noth wind that pushed the top panel of the door in JUST enough to trigger the door micro-switch (magnetic reed switch). I re-adjusted the door and it has never happened again - that's in 16 years.
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On 4/6/2012 7:51 PM, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Ya think? ;)
It would really piss me off when it went off in the middle of the night and I was the closest manger so I always got the call.
It was one of those tied into the flashing fire lights. Sort of like a scene out of the movie Aliens. A great way to start the pre-dawn day. When you're hung-over even better. :)
I think we never got it fixed for numerous reasons. It's been almost 20 years ago.

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On Fri, 06 Apr 2012 20:05:38 -0500, gonjah <gonjah.net> wrote:

The church I used to belong to decided it was a good idea to install an alarm system. The doors were open all day with the alarm shut off - so anyone could walk in and walk out with anything they wanted - but they had to have an alarm for when the doors were locked.
Couldn't get people with keys trained to shut the bloody thing off when entering after hours - and being I lived only 2 blocks away, I was the one that had to respond to the alarm when it went off.
The other problem was getting the last person to leave to lock ALL the doors. Several times the wind caused an unlocked door to open, tripping the alarm in the middle of a nasty winter storm at 2am.
When nothing changed after 2 years I told them they had to find someone else to wake up in the middle of the night.
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Often it's user error. Sometimes it's bad design. In either case, it's not impossible to figure out what causes the falsing and to get rid of it.
-- Bobby G.
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<stuff snipped>

Agreed. There are a lot of ways to help prevent falsing and I'd investigate those before deciding I didn't want the protection of an alarm just because of the false triggers. Sometimes it means switching to different kinds of sensors.
About 20 years ago when I installed my systems (there are three - two have to agree to send an alarm to the central station) I had no end of trouble with glass-break detectors going off whenever there was a thunderstorm so I removed them all. I used thin metal foil varnished onto the window (very old school!) to replace the glassbreaks on the rear basement windows, a favorite entry point for thieves. I covered the glass top half of the basement door (people were SO trusting 80 years ago) with thick bullet-proof Lexan I got when a local plastics place went under and had a fire sale.
I understand glass-break detectors have gotten much, much better and I may reconsider them, but they were almost guaranteed to false with enough thunder present. It may still be a problem because whenever there's a loud enough thunderclap, four or five car alarms start sounding.
Most insurers will give you a discount for a central station alarm. If you have a claims history for burglary, they may DEMAND it.
-- Bobby G.
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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Heh! We used to get an occassional false alarm from a motion detector. It was located high on the wall in a corner of the room.
Finally deduced it was the cat getting to the top of a bookcase directly below the alarm.
We masked off the bottom of the detector where it still scanned the room but ignored whatever might be on top of the bookcase.
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On 4/6/2012 11:41 AM, Frank wrote:

Cameras with an attached means of recording can show you and police whether or not it's a false alarm. One homeowner had a problem with the police department over multiple 911 calls coming from his home. It turned out to be squirrels chewing on his phone line. I was in the alarm industry many years ago and saw some very strange things cause false alarms. ^_^
TDD
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wrote:

It's always best to know about them BEFORE they get in.
Perimeter detection is better than interior motion detectors. If you carry a smart phone (which you do not) 2 way communication is available - you get to see if anything is out of the ordinary on your cameras, and speak to the house.
You can even answer the doorebell from across the world. If the doorbell rings, your phone notifies you, and you can see who is at the door. If they look suspicious you can tell them they've got 30 seconds before you come out guns blazing, or whatever.
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On 4/6/2012 2:45 PM, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Back in the early 1980's I had a friend who owned a huge malamute dog and the dog had a very intimidating growl and bark. I recorded the dog growling at 7.5"/sec then slowed it down to 1.5"/sec which made it sound like a monster. Since I was building powerful audio amps and large speakers at the time, the monster growl could be felt in your chest when played through one of my PA systems. I setup very sensitive vibration switches and motion detectors to trigger the the sound system and tape when we were away from the shop and any miscreant nosing around the shop would have a hair raising experience when he touched the back door knob or windows which would actually rattle from the sound. ^_^
TDD
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Rebel1 wrote:

My experience with alarm systems is that I've installed 3 alarm systems over the past 13 years - twice at my office (which moved to a different location) and once in my home.
The systems at my office consisted of:
- motion detectors mounted in every room with either an outside door or a window (sensors mounted in the corner of the room where the walls meet the suspended ceiling) - magnetic door sensors on each outside door
Wires were run from these sensors above the suspended ceiling to the control unit. I performed all this work myself. I bought the sensors and control unit (DSC 5500) from a local company that installs alarm systems.
The control unit is designed to call 2 different phone numbers upon sensing an alarm condition. I programmed the unit to call my home telephone and the home phone of another key person. I did not subscribe to an alarm monitoring company because there really isin't any need. If either myself or the other key person gets the phone call from the unit, we can use our own judgement as to how to proceed (either go to the office, call the police or someone else, etc).
In the 12 years that I've had the alarm at the office, there hasn't ever been a break-in, but there have been false-alarms caused by the motion sensors (this seemed to happen during very cold winter nights when the furnace would kick on and blow warm air over the windows, possibly causing the blinds to move around).
At my house, I only have sensors to detect the opening and closing of the front and back doors. Each door has a screen door and a "main" or proper door, and both doors are monitored independantly at both locations. I have the exact same DSC 5500 unit at home, and I have it programmed to call my work phone number (because when I'm not at home, the odds are I'm at work). I've never had a break-in at home, so that unit has never been in an alarm condition where it's called me at work. Door sensors are highly reliable and almost never give false alarms.
These alarm systems have keypads that you typically place near your entrance/exit door. When you enter the premises when the alarm is set, the keypad will emit a tone until you enter the code to deactivate the system. If you don't enter the code, it will enter the alarm state in 30 seconds (or what-ever time period you want).
A burglar would also hear the tone upon entering the premises, and he might decide to just turn around and leave because he knows that a response will happen within minutes.
The control unit can power a loud horn (that you can place anywhere, inside, outside, etc) if the unit enters the alarm mode. I don't have any such horn connected to either of my work or home systems.
My current office location has bars over vulnerable lower-floor glass windows, but my previous location had about 20 large windows (about 30 inches by 60 inches, double-pane) that had a protective membrane applied to the inner pane to effectively laminate the glass and make it very hard to penetrate. The membrane was slightly tinted to make it harder to see inside and block some solar heat radiation from entering the office. This lamination is available for residential windows and when I get new windows for my home I will probably put this lamination on them.
Over the past few years I've been experimenting with cameras (internet connected "IP" cameras) at home and the office. I have one such camera on my front porch looking out onto the street. I can program the camera to monitor the image and can define specific zones to sense any motion in those zones, and it will send me an e-mail with the picture showing what-ever is moving in the triggered zone. I therefor have images of vehicles driving in front of my house, people walking up to my door, etc.
I can also monitor a live video signal from that camera on my computer at work if I want. I have a similar camera watching my back door. That one has a microphone and speaker output (I can hear what's going on, and I can speak into a microphone connected to my computer at work and have it come out of the speakers connected to the back-door camera at home). All of this is done without needing to subscribe to any server or service. It's a direct internet connection between my office computer and the cameras at home.
There are "apps" available for iSlave and other smart phones if that's what you use vs a proper desktop computer. These apps are generally NOT free - but typically cost $5 and they have a more limited functionality vs what you can do on a PC.
For a home situation, it's very ergonomic to set up a home PC to perform the video recording from the camera. As long as the PC isin't stolen, you'll have a video record of who broke into your home (or who rang your door bell, etc).

My brother is somewhat of a video geek and he set up a real video camera over the entrance to my parents garage (this is a 2-car attached garage). There is also a bright light over this door. He set up a video recording system (I think it recorded directly to a DVD-RW) and it will just record over and over to the same disk each night.
One night it recorded some punk trying to break into the garage. The camera recorded a nice clear image of the punk. The door was well fortified so he didn't actually break in. My parents gave the video to the police. They gave a copy to the local newspaper who put up a link to the video on their website. After a few days the punk was identified and he was charged (with attempted break-in I think).
I'm probably going to buy something called a "trail-cam". It's a camera normally used by hunters and biologists that want to record pictures of animals in remote locations. These cameras have motion detectors and have very good night-vision capability, and have batteries that can last up to a year, and can take thousands of hi-rez pictures over that time.
I would mount this camera to a tree in my front yard where it has a view of the street. It would take pictures of any punks trolling around at night looking for cars with unlocked doors.
The bottom line is that you need to ask yourself:
1) How much of any of this am I capable of doing myself (running wires, buying specific devices, etc). Doing it yourself can save you a lot of $$$ and you end up with something very customized to your situation.
2) One basic question is -> does the alarm system call a monitoring service, or does it call you and/or any other appropriate person (friend, family member, neighbor, etc) during an alarm condition. The answer depends on (a) how much money you want to save, and (b) are there people you trust (and who is willing to take the responsibility, and who is likely to be able to come to your house when you're out of town).
I think it's overwhelmingly better to have "personal" response to an alarm made by a trusted person instead of a monitoring company.
You could have a reciprocal arrangement with a friend, familiy member or neighbor: Their alarm system can call you (as a backup contact) if your alarm system can call them (again they would be your backup contact).
I said earlier that if any sensor is triggered, that the keypad will emit a tone until the entry code is entered. This tone could be used to wake you up (if you're home and the sensor is triggered in the middle of the night). It is possible to place a second keypad in your bedroom (for example) so you would hear the tone at night.
As for me, I never set my alarm when I'm home. I have no such fear or expectation of having my home entered by an intruder during the evening or over-night hours. For one thing, any such attempted entry would probably wake me up, and second such an evening break-in attempt in my neighborhood (or even in my city) is just so rare to begin with.
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On 4/6/2012 1:47 PM, Home Guy wrote:

You go on and on ad naseum how perfect everything is in Canada. So why would you need an alarm system in Canada?
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George wrote:

Yes I do. And it is.

I see your point.
After 14 years of having alarm systems at two locations - and not a single attempted or actual break-in, I clearly don't have as much of a need for an alarm system as you do in the United States of Thievery.
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Home Guy wrote:

Hmmm, I left Ontario(used to live in Scarboro) about this time of the year 1970. I never looked back. U.S. has lot more population than Canada. A fact to keep in mind when comparing two neighbors. Ontario the province soon to be have not place.
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On 4/6/2012 3:48 PM, Tony Hwang wrote:

"home guy" always demonstrates that he is totally incapable of any reasoned or logical thinking...
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