How effective are burglar alarms at stopping break-ins?
While they have been a staple of home security for decades, how do we know that burglar alarms always work? Sure, they may be activated when someone breaks into a home, but often people invest in them with higher expectations.
Those who buy burglar alarms are investing in protection; they want their security system to reduce the risk of a crime being committed against their property. A 2009 study by Rutgers University noted that a rise in home security systems in the area examined led to a drop in burglaries, but a report the following year claimed that burglar alarms only prevented “one burglary roughly every 300 years”.
With such conflicting information, it’s understandable that many alarm sceptics have started to wonder: are burglar alarms that effective at stopping break-ins?
Burglar alarms as a means of apprehension
Burglar alarm systems serve two basic purposes: alerting those both inside and out of a property to the presence of an intruder and deterring potential criminals from entering a property in the first place. When an alarm goes off, it should, in theory, stop a burglar in their tracks, or at least raise awareness of the crime to passers-by; someone may look out of their window and see an unfamiliar figure approaching the property across the street, therefore being able to act as a witness if the authorities become involved.
Though some burglar alarms are successfully triggered by the unexpected motion caused by break-ins, studies have shown that an audible alarm may not always have the intended effect. In a 2012 survey, 87% of those questioned said they would ignore a neighbour’s burglar alarm if they heard it going off. This phenomenon has been dubbed “alarm fatigue”, alluding to the fact that people are tired of hearing alarms because they hear so many as to not take them seriously.
How to make burglar alarms more effective
Thankfully, there is a way to overcome this alarming trend of security fatigue: if homeowners fit alarms that are not just audible, but viewed from an external location. There has been a rising trend in the adoption of monitored alarm systems for both residential and business properties.
When monitored alarms are triggered, a signal is sent to a remote alarm response centre where the threat is assessed and an alert is passed on to the appropriate authorities. This makes monitored alarms the safest bet when it comes to security, and means that burglar alarms always prove effective, no matter what.
Burglar alarms as a deterrent
The theory behind burglar alarms as deterrents is that, by merely seeing a burglar alarm, potential burglars will be put off. Because of this theory, most commercial and industrial burglar alarms are clearly and prominently fitted, with a large box (known as a bell box) fixed externally to the building, often complete with a flashing light, that indicates that the resident or business on the premises is protected by a burglar alarm.
According to a survey of convicted burglars, 60% were deterred by the sight of a burglar alarm system, with respondents agreeing that they would opt for a different target should they find their initial one visibly fitted with alarms. The results of this survey are corroborated by UK government statistics. According to a crime study by the government, 75% of surveyed households that had not been burgled were fitted with security systems like burglar alarms, whereas two thirds of houses that were burgled had no security measures.
Evidence like this supports the theory that burglar alarms can act as a deterrent to potential crime, and are worth the investment for this reason alone.
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