Home security essentials

Lock, light, record, arm

As the temperature rises, so does crime. Make sure your home isn’t an easy target.

Lock and light, day and night

Lock your house, your car, and your garage all the time, says Sergeant Travis Dalby, head of Sangamon County’s crime prevention unit. “As the weather heats up, all kinds of crime increases. But you don’t have to overcomplicate your home security. There are some very affordable, easy things you can do to secure your residence. You want to make it harder for a burglar looking for a crime of opportunity.”

“The vast majority of home burglaries occur during the daytime when folks are at work. Someone will knock on the door to see if anyone is home and if there are dogs.” A good quality door with a locked deadbolt may be all it takes to discourage a potential crime. If the burglar does forcibly enter through the door or window, a loud alarm is usually an excellent deterrent (although, he adds, some burglars will wait for the alarm to clear then come back and go inside).

At night, light your home and parking spaces. The darker the property, the easier the crime, says Dalby. Security lights allow neighbors to see suspicious activity more clearly and provide additional light for cameras. Motion-sensing floodlights can startle burglars.

And keep your cars locked. Burglars walk down sidewalks and up driveways trying car doors, especially at night. If your vehicle is unlocked, Dalby says, anything of value can be stolen, including your garage door opener. For homes with an attached garage, this makes for easy access into your home when you’re away.

Record and arm

For residents wanting more than a sturdy lock, electronics stores and local security companies offer a wide range of cameras and alarm systems for just about every budget.

Jeff Lapp has worked in security for more than 30 years and recently installed cameras at his Springfield residence. He bought a hard-wired, full-color, night vision multi-camera system with remote operation capability, and an additional motion detection light for better night resolution. The entire system, which is tied into a self-contained video recorder in the house, cost Lapp less than $300 at a local big-box store.

Cameras are a deterrent to crime, whether they are working or not, says Lapp, who also uses low-watt fluorescent lights to illuminate the rest of the property. “That will help keep [burglars] away from your house for pennies a year.”

For additional features, says Kevin Lloyd, owner of Lloyd I.T. Services based in Sherman, web-based systems provide high-resolution camera images, streaming and playback capability on your phone and other devices; two-way audio, entry door and indoor “nanny cam” activity monitoring, whole-house light and climate control, and more.

“Network-based camera systems have become a big part of our business. People love the security they get and all the things you can do with them. Digital resolution on IP (internet protocol) cameras is so much higher than the antiquated analog systems, and you can set them up to send email motion-detection alerts, texts and snapshots of what’s going on.”

When choosing a system, consider longevity of the brand/company, length and provisions of the warranty, how much storage you’ll need based on how you record and how long you want to keep images for playback, and how clear you want those images to be. “With image quality, you get what you pay for,” says Lloyd.

Even estimating a price range for two cameras, straightforward installation of the equipment and network, and a baseline network video recorder is difficult. Because there are so many variables with each installation environment, Lloyd provides free site visits and quotes. But it’s reasonable to expect a starting price would be around $2,000, says Lloyd. After that, you’ll probably have to replace cameras every five years or so, and routinely broom out spider nests and other debris to ensure optimal image quality.

In addition to video surveillance at his Springfield home, radiologist David Ayoub administers a neighborhood communication email list for approximately 70 households. “It’s not a ‘neighborhood watch.’ We developed it as a listserve to share safety concerns.” Several neighbors have cameras pointed to access points, front sidewalks, front streets and back alleys, so, he says, “when we’ve had a break-in, knowledge spreads instantly.” Residents, especially those with remote access to their camera systems, can look at their image archives and quickly provide identification information to the police.

“My system can send notifications of motion within a field of view. I can even isolate the view of the front steps and have the system notify me and record the motion.” Without that instant access, those records are often loop recorded over and lost, he adds.

Hire a team – the monitored system

Local companies offer full security and medical monitoring support for homeowners. These include not only motion detection, but also glass break alarms, key fob entry with panic alert, battery backup for your system and “total connect” remote control of alarms, lights and thermostats. For a monthly fee, local operators will monitor your system 24 hours a day and notify you of potential security events.

As for the old hack, “Skip the fee, just put the sign in the yard,” Ayoub says no. “Burglars will test to see if an alarm is on – bang on the doors or break a window to test the system. A sign is not enough.”

You, the police and Facebook

• If someone unexpected and unknown approaches your home and asks for money, tries to sell you something, requests help, etc., says Sergeant Travis Dalby, head of Sangamon County’s crime prevention unit, report it to the police. Give a description of the person and, if available, vehicle and license plate. The police need to know someone may be gathering information about you and your neighbors.
• If you have security cameras, position them to see your entryways and toward people approaching your home so people’s faces are clearly visible.
• Communicate immediately with your neighbors about property crime and promptly share available video surveillance images with the police. “We’ve caught guys because of cameras,” says Dalby.
• Put a hold on your mail and tell the police when you are going to be away from home. Your neighborhood police officer will do occasional vacation checks of your property and can be on the lookout in cases of increased criminal activity.
• Post those great vacation pictures on Facebook when you get home, not while you’re gone.
• Want to help secure your neighborhood? In town, your neighborhood police will come and talk about crime trends and security measures for increased awareness and security. In the county, the sheriff’s office offers those presentations.
• If you return home and find your door open, don’t enter, says Dalby. A crime against property can quickly escalate into crime against a person.

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