Burglar alarms and security cameras are time-honoured security options, but they should not be considered a total security solution.
There is good evidence that alarms and cameras act as a deterrents to crime. However, they don’t actually prevent an intruder from getting in. Theses types of measures provide psychological security barriers.
Most crimes take place in minutes. Check with your local police department, many will disclose the typical response time for alarms (that are monitored); In most cases it is not great. The fact that so many alarms are actually false is making burglar alarms a lower priority as well as making it more and more difficult for local police to arrive in a timely fashion. You may be surprised to learn that even private security, which should be able to arrive before police can take 20 minutes or more to arrive at the crime scene.
In this amount of time any marginally experienced criminal will have broken in, taken valuables, and left.
There was a time, not so long ago, when homeowners did not feel the need to lock their doors. Come to think of it, many still neglect to lock their doors. This is the most basic security measure you can take to protect your premises. Your door and lock are the first “physical barrier” to unlawful entry. Leaving a door unlocked and valuables like car keys, purse, or notebook nearby (particularly for those with a window in their door or sidelights) is a recipe to become a victim of theft.
My Dad used to say, “Locks keep honest people honest.” Police and locksmiths will tell you that most conventional locks, particularly those in the door handle, can easily be picked. If you don’t have one already, install a deadbolt. Talk to a reputable locksmith in your area about alternatives to keyed locks as well.
Even with a decent lock on your door, thieves can make their way into homes and businesses. Most break ins occur through glass. In a residential setting a glass window in the door or a sidelight will allow a burglar to open your lock by simply smashing the glass and reaching in and unlocking the door. If the front door is too obviously exposed, any glass window or door is temptingly vulnerable to a smash and grab thief.
The same is true for commercial buildings with glass storefronts or glass windows in the doors. Many stores with glass doors will install security bars or gates. However, these gates are not very useless if a thief can reach in and unlock the door for themselves. Shopkeepers should invest in a lock with a removable thumb turn, or keyed from both sides.
Gates and bars are an excellent physical barrier to your premises, whether commercial or residential. However, many do not like their look and feel. Homeowners and high-end shops may find them particularly objectionable. They are, however, valuable and can and should be used where aesthetics allow (basement windows and back entrances for example). Make sure that the bars are installed properly and that they meet with your local fire code.
Another, much newer and more advanced security barrier entering the market is security films for glass. Polyester films are bonded to existing glass, creating a barrier to intruders, “Like invisible bars,” says Apex Window Films owner Dean Avey. According to Avey, security films take away a thief’s main requirements, ease and speed. “An intruder can hit the glass with a rock or a crowbar, or whatever they happen to have with them. If they whack away at it a few times and find they can’t get in chances are they leave–all that hitting makes a lot of noise and thieves don’t want that kind of attention.”
While the glass will crack, the film and its bonding agents hold the window or door together to prevent it from breaking open.
“It works well in conjunction with bars,” states Avey, who provides security solutions for both residential and commercial properties in the Toronto area. “There have been storefront incidents where the thieves smashed the glass, chained the bars to a truck and just pulled the whole door out. They wouldn’t be able to do this if they couldn’t get through the glass.”
Look at security in terms of layers, like peeling an onion; the longer it takes the more likely you’ll end up in tears. As Avey puts it, “Security is all about layers of protection; the more layers you have the more frustrated a would-be intruder becomes.”
There is no ‘magic bullet’ when it comes to security (though there are, incidentally, window films that make glass bullet resistant!) Alarms and cameras play an important role that should not be minimized but, remember the onion, security measures are most effective when used in conjunction with other barriers. The type and number of barrier solutions you use will depend on your specific security needs. Frustrate thieves by depriving them of their greatest asset, a quick and easy entry, and improve your odds of not becoming a victim.