Are alarm systems effective?

Before making the big decision on whether to invest in an alarm system, the question is will it be worth the money. If we consider condos or apartments, then a good door with a good lock is usually enough to be secure. But if we look at houses in general: there are several entries: many doors (garage, back door, cellar), many windows, that can provide easy access. Usually, locks are weak and glass in the windows is easily broken. Alarm systems appear to be the only way to protect a house.

Are alarms systems effective? Alarm systems are effective because statistics show that burglars are 2.7 times more likely to target homes without alarm systems. Complement your installation with security cameras, outdoor motion sensors, alarms, and stickers. Wireless and cellular alarm systems will deter anyone who has got any inclusive knowledge about burglarizing, says former burglar.

But let’s see how, and what to take into consideration to make sure that results will be consistent and we will be safe at home.

National Statistics on crime

These burglary statistics are provided by the National Council for Home Safety and Security, source.

When? Burglaries most often happen during daylight, and are 6% more likely to occur during the day between 6 am and 6 pm while people are at work or running errands. The seasonality is quite simple as well, with snow and cold being principal deterrents, the lowest amount of burglaries happen in February. According to the Department of Justice, burglary rates are higher in the summer.

How? Burglars are most attracted to houses that do not have home alarm systems, but only 17% of houses have a security system in place. Homes without a security system are 300% more likely to be burglarized

Who? Burglars are 85% amateurs, that is to say not good professionals. 41% of burglars say their break-in is an impulsive decision.
83% said that they specifically look to see if there’s an alarm; 60% would give up if there was a security system installed.

So, the F. B. I. indicates that burglars are 2.7 times more likely to target homes without alarm systems. The F.B.I reports as well that 90% of all intrusions occur through doors; 6% occur through windows; 3% occur through the roof and 1% occur through the walls (source).

How hard is it to break in?

1. Apartments or Condominiums
It is quite simple to understand that a good lock and a good door will probably be enough to secure a condo. It is the only entry, and wall break-ins account for 1% and roof break-ins for 3% of break-ins. So a good door will keep you safe for two reasons:

  • as it is the only way in, it will have an indisputable deterrent effect,
  • if a burglar tries to break in any way, he might go elsewhere after a couple of minutes because it will be too hard to break in quickly. According to F.B.I. statistics, burglars will spend less than 2 minutes to break into a home.

For all of the above reasons, putting good physical security to the door of the apartment is the best way to secure it. An alarm system is extra security but is not compulsory.

2. Houses
Houses usually have many doors and windows. A front door, a back door, a garage, windows front and back, and so on. A good lock is always a must-have but is not enough for all-around security. What happens if you have just installed the best lock to the front door and a burglar breaks your back window? Our approach has to be logical. We shouldn’t over-see an element when contemplating home security enhancement. Each weak point has to be addressed. Then, yes to the good lock to the front and back door (but not the best, keep some cash), and yes, an alarm system is the only way to secure windows properly.

As windows and doors are side by side, the security of one and the other has to be dealt with at the same time and importance.

So a broken window will trigger the alarm, but with the volumetric sensors, the protection will cover just as well broken walls and broken roofs. Even if statistics show that less than 4% of break-ins occur through walls and roofs, it is always important to know that alarms will have you covered in those cases as well.

How alarm systems are effective?

Let’s be in the head of a burglar for a minute.

Burglars are attracted by easy targets. They want to be as quick as possible. They want to be in and out unnoticed, with the least amount of noise. They want to run away undetected. That is why they try to avoid homes equipped with an alarm system, and as the F.B.I. statistics show burglars are 2.7 times more likely to target homes without alarm systems.
So everything that will prevent a burglar to be quick, silent and unnoticed is a good add-on to your home security.

60% of all residential burglaries occur during daylight hours, which means that burglars prefer the period of time when people are less likely to be home. Daylight hours are also office hours. At night, it is more difficult to know if the house will be unoccupied, and for how long.

This is the interview of a burglar by the Columbus Division of police:
“Most burglaries are done by opportunities. It is not something that is calculated (some are) but most burglaries are random. Good locks, but if you know you’re not going to be in your home a lot, install a security system. Because, most security systems, if you’re not a professional burglar that has experience in electronics, you’re not trying to go in a house you know the alarm is off and the police are on their way. So a good alarm and sometimes set it off that some people know it’s there.”

So, do home alarm systems deter burglars?

  1. Poster sign of an alarm system and or a security company: this will definitely have a deterrent effect even if some people show fake ones.
  2. Motion-sensor lights outside: how to be unnoticed when lit up in the night? Yes, a light can be broken or disabled, but this is an extra step and there is no guarantee the burglar will disable the lights quick enough to be undetected.
  3. Security cameras: Even worse to being lit up, being filmed. Security cameras are compatible with most of the new security systems. This is the subject of another blog post. But if used properly, you have proof to show the police. Even if a burglar wants to break the camera, he might be recorded a few seconds before. And he might suspect other cameras can be hidden inside the house. So this is definitely a deterrent. So the burglar is more exposed, more likely to get caught, arrested and convicted.
  4. Alarm systems: They are here to make noise and call or message the owner of the house. To make the burglar noticed. So yes, there is a deterrent effect but also the alarm system will have the burglar lose time, leave earlier and be less prone to visit the whole house.

In this very informative video provided by the Allen Police Department, an officer interview a burglar who has burglarized hundreds of home for 20 years across Collin and Dallas counties:
“First, I will go to the alarm system, to see whether or not the alarm system is armed or whether it is ready. Ready is confusing for a lot of people because it is ready to be armed. I would check if there was a warning for an intrusion because some alarm systems are silent. I go look at the alarm from the inside to see whether or not it is cellular. Because people don’t put the new sign and leave the old one. New signs say “wireless” or “cellular”. Wireless will deter anyone who has got any inclusive knowledge of what they’re doing about burglarizing. Wireless alarms are deterrent because by the time you cut the wires outside, when you go into the home, even if they don’t have the glass breaking feature on their home windows, there are motion detectors and it goes off. Even if the wires are cut, someone will show up. So it will save your property, to say the least. So a person has to put a sign in their yard and the back of their home, it is very important because some burglars don’t even check the front of the home, just jumping backyards. If you put that cellular wireless feature there, on a sign, just that people know there is a wireless system there, it’s a major deterrent because there is no point going there. And officers are going to be there in a short period of time. Even if you were capable of burglarizing that home in less than 90 seconds which is unlikely, you would need to have prior knowledge of the home to do something like that.”

Why should I get an alarm system?

To sum up, there is really no denying that an alarm system is effective, if it is wireless and cellular, as burglars themselves have explained.

  1. Deterrent effect (sticker, fake sticker)
  2. Noise, the burglar wants to be unnoticed
  3. Burglars have to analyze and fight something else, something more
  4. Takes time to the burglar, and leaves earlier
  5. The owner is alerted as soon as a break-in occurs
  6. Cameras: fear of being filmed

For further information on how an alarm system can really be worth it, you can read this companion post here.


I have been passionate about locks and safes for so long; it is a family speciality since 1898. I hope I can share with you all the simple tips that can make the difference for your security. And that you'll buy the right products for your needs.

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