More than just a loud bell

Marketplace Staff May 25, 2007

More than just a loud bell

Marketplace Staff May 25, 2007

TESS VIGELAND: No doubt many of you will be putting your credit cards to good use this weekend.
It’s the official start to the summer travel season.
Now, it’s not like we don’t want you to be relaxed while you’re on vacation, but travel season also means home invasion time.

The National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association estimates a burglary is committed about every 15 seconds in the U.S. For that reason, one in four homeowners invests in security systems.

Are they worth the cost?
Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler looks at the price of protection.

JEFF TYLER: According to the Justice Department, the average loss per burglary is about $1,700. Compare that to the cost of a home security system.

Mark Sepulveda with USA Alarm Systems in Monrovia, Calif.,
says the price:

MARK SEPULVEDA: Could range anywhere from about $200 to about $2,000, depending on the size of the property.

If you just want an alarm that makes noise, Sepulveda can set you up with one like this:

[SOUND: Old-fashioned, clangy-bell alarm]

SEPULVEDA: It does not include monitoring. You know, it just makes a local sound at the property. Does not go into the central station, which we do recommend. And most alarm systems are monitored by a central station.

So when you’re alarm is tripped, the company notifies the cops. That monitoring costs an additional 15 or 20 bucks a month.

Susan Brady, editor-in-chief of Security Dealer Magazine, recommends spending 12 to 1,500 bucks for a quality system. She says you can find cheaper models . . .

SUSAN BRADY: As low as, say, $90. But they’re very basic and they come with long-term contracts, like a two or three, four-year contract that if you try to get out of, could cost you more than even some of the high-end systems are worth.

The high-end systems come with powerful 30-watt sirens.

But not everybody needs that.

FRANK BURKE: Don’t waste your money. Make sure the product you’re buying is going to work for you.

That’s Frank Burke. He’s a retired cop, and now an executive with USA Alarm Systems.

BURKE: Are we wise to sell them a $5,000, a $10,000 alarm system when they’re trying to protect a lamp, a TV? No, that’s not wise. They should develop a system that’s designed around what their needs are.

These days, many security systems include a fire alarm.

[SOUND: Chirping fire alarm]

What else do you need? How about a monitor for carbon dioxide in your home? Do you need surveillance cameras that send video clips to your cell phone?

Mark Sepulveda can even install temperature detectors.

SEPULVEDA: If there’s a temperature that gets too high or too low. Let’s say a vacation home. Your cabin may get too cold and the pipes start breaking. Things like that.

These add-ons cost extra. As much as 150 bucks for additional hardware, plus a couple bucks more per month for monitoring.

In addition, you need to factor in the cost of an annual permit.

In Los Angeles, permits run 30 bucks a year.

That’s cheaper than the fine for not having one, says George Gunning, president of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.

GEORGE GUNNING: In one city, it’s like $300 for not having the permit.

And if you trip your alarm by accident, you could end up paying the cops too. In Los Angeles, the police charge upwards of a hundred bucks for each false alarm.

On the positive side, there some financial incentives that off-set the cost of the system and permit and the potential fines.

George Gunning explains how an alarm system can save you money.

GUNNING: The person that puts in an alarm system normally gets somewhere between 15 and 20 percent discount on their insurance policies.

And if you really want to pinch pennies, you can psyche-out crooks on the cheap. Even if you don’t own an alarm, you can advertise as if you do – with a sticker or a sign placed in your front yard.

Again, Mark Sepulveda:

SEPULVEDA: Statistics show that any type of signage that you have in your home does deter. They’d rather go somewhere else where they don’t have a system.

And for just the cost of kibble, you can invest in the oldest kind of alarm:

[SOUND: Dog barking]

The canine kind.

In Los Angeles, I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace Money.

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