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Home Security: Hedge Your Bets with Landscaping

You don't need a uniform and a badge to be a crimefighter. In some cases, a floppy hat and some gardening gloves will do just fine.

Conventional wisdom tells us that shrubs and hedges will make burglars think twice before breaking into a home. What you may not know is that science also supports the idea.

The territoriality principle

Back in 1983, a graduate student at the University of Utah conducted research on psychological barriers to burglary. Barbara Brown, who later earned her Ph.D. in psychology, studied hundreds of houses in the Salt Lake City area to compare houses that had been burglarized with houses that had remained secure. She made several findings, including:

  • Barriers, even largely symbolic ones like bushes and hedges, can have an impact on the mind of a criminal
  • Cul-de-sacs tend to have fewer break-ins than open-ended streets because they convey a sense of privacy
  • Burglars will bypass an expensive-looking home, ostensibly a prime target, if the neighborhood seems well maintained

The reason, Dr. Brown theorized, involves territoriality. Homes whose occupants seem to have a sense of possession or ownership send a 'keep out'' message to potential intruders — and in many cases, they do heed that message.

''Residents who expressed pride in their homes, who believed their homes gave them privacy and who knew their neighbors were less likely to have experienced burglaries,'' she told The New York Times in a 1983 article on her research. ''The same principle applied to whole streets.''

Social scientists George Kelling and James Wilson explored similar themes with their Broken Windows Theory, suggesting that signs of disorder in a community can help set the stage for criminal activity.

How to get territorial in your yard

Experts offer a wealth of advice on landscaping your way to a more secure home, such as:

DO keep trees, hedges and shrubs neatly trimmed so that burglars will have fewer shadowy places to conceal themselves.

DON'T let toys, bikes or lawn equipment pile up in your yard, because an intruder could see it as a sign of inattentiveness on your part.

DO mow your lawn regularly (and have someone do it for you when you go on vacation) to sustain the appearance of an occupied, well-maintained home.

DON'T be afraid to get creative — planting some thorny rosebushes beside your home will create a burglar deterrent that’s also pleasing to the eye.

So when you tend your garden this summer, remember all the things you can do in the yard to make your home security bloom.

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Security Cameras Make it Difficult for Criminals to Cover Their Tracks

A murder suspect who allegedly disabled his home security system to get rid of potentially incriminating video may give homeowners reason to wonder: What if an intruder did the same thing to my system?

It's no secret that law enforcement sometimes uses surveillance camera footage in the apprehension and prosecution of criminal suspects. In the case of burglaries, images captured by home security cameras can be used in court.

The case of Aaron Hernandez adds an unusual twist. The former New England Patriots tight end faces charges in connection with the fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player who reportedly dated the sister of Hernandez's girlfriend.

Investigators believe Hernandez smashed his own home security system because the cameras had captured footage of him carrying a gun in the hours before the victim's fatal shooting.

However, it would seem that eliminating the video from an alarm system may require more than just brute force.

Better technology = harder targets

Older security cameras recorded the images they captured on VCR cassettes. Destroying those images required little effort — someone could simply rip out the tape and be done with it.

Digital recording, on the other hand, presents a different challenge than yesterday's analog systems. Many modern security cameras use DVR equipment, and even do-it-yourself cameras record images on small memory cards.

Data retrieval technology has come a long way as well, even in cases where the hardware itself has been physically damaged. Some private companies offer video recovery solutions in as little as five business days.

Of course, law enforcement agencies have access to the same recovery technology. Investigators in the Hernandez case say the damaged system's memory still contained video evidence that could prove crucial.

Thwarting the smash-and-grab strategy

Let's say an intruder breaks into your home and sees a security camera pointing toward him. Disabling the camera itself will do him no good if the camera has already started recording footage. Finding and disabling the DVR unit or memory card isn't a foolproof strategy either.

Home security cameras provide thousands of homeowners with added peace of mind. Not only do they have a deterrent effect on crime, they also make it hard for wrongdoers to cover their tracks.

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Oh, Say Can You See a Safer Summer?

Learn how to protect yourself from potential hazards of the season

Before we dive into the subject of summer safety, ask yourself if you've ever wondered about the deep connection between Americans and fireworks. Look no further than our national anthem:

"And the rockets' red glare … the bombs bursting in air …"

Francis Scott Key used those lyrics in "The Star-Spangled Banner" to describe a fierce naval bombardment he witnessed during the War of 1812, sometimes known as America's second war for independence. Perhaps even on a subliminal level, the controlled explosions of a fireworks display remind Americans that armed resistance has helped define their country throughout the centuries.

On that note, here are some tips and guidelines to help you resist some potential dangers of the summer season, starting with fireworks.

Leave the Pyrotechnics to the Pros

A study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found that hospital emergency rooms treated approximately 9,600 fireworks-related injuries in 2011. Statistics like those have prompted the U.S. Fire Administration to advise against using fireworks at home under any circumstances.

Many public officials suggest that you enjoy fireworks in a safe, controlled environment — at a public display set up by professionals and inspected beforehand by safety officials.

However, if you must set off consumer fireworks by yourself, first contact the city or county fire marshal to find out the kinds of fireworks that local regulations allow. Local authorities will also be happy to share safety tips such as:

  • Never throw fireworks or hold them in your hand in any way.
  • Always stay a safe distance away from fireworks.
  • Keep a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby at all times.
  • Soak all spent fireworks in a bucket of water before disposal.

Be Smart And Don't Get Burned

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that fires claim more than 3,500 American lives and cause upwards of 18,000 injuries every year. Most of these fires take place at home.

Follow these tips to reduce the risk of fire this summer:

  • Check the batteries in your home's smoke detectors.
  • Observe safe grilling procedures by placing grills a safe distance from houses and other buildings.
  • In the event of a power outage, follow the safety guidelines in the owner's manual when using a generator.
  • Don't smoke or strike matches around gas-powered equipment like lawnmowers.

Make It a Season of Safety

Agencies like FEMA offer a wealth of advice for staying safe this summer. For instance, you're advised to stay away from appliances and standing water during thunderstorms because lightning can leave them electrically charged for a short time.

For additional information, contact your local Red Cross agency or check your home security provider's website for a list of home safety and security tips.

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ADT Pulse Puts Convenience in Motion with New Feature

Customers can schedule responses to activity detected by security cameras.

ADT home automation technology goes one step further with the introduction of a new feature for the interactive ADT Pulse® system.

Through the use of video motion sensor technology, ADT customers have the power to program their systems to take specific actions when their indoor or outdoor wireless cameras detect movement around the house. Customer also receive instant email or text alerts with video clips.

The video motion feature will allow for unprecedented control and convenience, according to an ADT press release.

"ADT's product engineers performed extensive quality testing at our Innovation Lab to perfect the new motion detection feature," said Tony Wells, ADT's chief marketing officer. "This superior technology ensures our customers have a reliable experience every time they use our system, and gives them greater power to control their homes remotely from any location, helping to more easily protect and connect to what matters most."

Security that fits your lifestyle

The everyday applications for the new motion detection feature include:

  • For your children — You'll know immediately when your child makes it home from school or after-school activities. If you have a family member with special needs, the system can notify you when the caregiver arrives.
  • For your pets — Let’s say your neighbor's son wants to make a few bucks walking your dog in the afternoons. This new feature makes it a snap to unlock the door when he arrives and re-lock it when he leaves. The camera footage can even help you make sure that your dog's being fed the right portions.
  • For your busy schedule — You can't stay at home all day waiting for deliveries, landscapers or housekeepers. Thanks to the new motion detection feature, you don't have to. You'll receive a text or email immediately when visitors arrive.

It all adds up to greater convenience and greater peace of mind.

Another innovation from ADT

If you have Pulse® and compatible cameras, you can add the new motion detection feature free of charge and activate it using your Pulse web portal.

This most recent innovation expands the already impressive capabilities available with ADT Pulse®. To learn more, contact an ADT Authorized Dealer today.

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The Bling Ring's Top Five Best Steals

Film inspired by real-life Hollywood housebreakers debuts this week

 

The Bling Ring, June's highly-anticipated crime-drama, is based on the true story of an infamous group of teens who ransacked the homes of celebrities and donned their impressive loot all over Hollywood. A club-hopping, fashionable group of Valley kids, the real-life Bling Ring members were accused of stealing more than $3 million in clothing and accessories from the mansions of celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom and Rachel Bilson.

Here is a list of the top five most unique items the Burglar Bunch managed to find during their criminal conquests. Considering that the teens acquired these items for free (at least before their eventual legal fees, jail times, and restitution costs), we're dubbing the collection the Top Five Best Steals.

  1. Kerr Couture: According to Nancy Jo Sales' article in Vanity Fair magazine, the Bling Ring crew managed to snag a one-of-a-kind Alex Perry dress from the home of Orlando Bloom. No, it wasn't Bloom's dress; it belonged to his then-girlfriend, Miranda Kerr, a Victoria's Secret supermodel. This was an extremely valuable steal – there is nothing like putting on a supermodel's dress before heading out for another long, hard night of pillaging. It's exactly the kind of self-esteem boost every young thief needs.
  2. Jewelry from Paris: You can never have enough jewelry, especially if it belongs to Paris Hilton (so hot!). Jewelry might not be the most unique thing the Burglar Bunch stole, but we think the sheer quantity makes it worth mentioning. The Burglar Bunch reportedly stole more than $2 million of Paris Hilton's jewelry. It would be an even more impressive heist, except for the fact that Hilton reportedly left her door unlocked.
  3. And a Patridge in a Pear Tree: Audrina Patridge starred on the popular reality show The Hills before she was a victim of the Burglar Bunch. The teens stole more than $43,000 in property from Patridge's house, including her passport, laptop and her great-grandmother's jewelry (vintage!). But we think the very best steal of the Patridge mansion was a pair of jeans that were custom-made to perfectly fit her lanky shape. Everyone knows how hard it is to find that perfect pair of jeans, especially when rifling through someone else's closet. Who cares if they are six inches too long for you to wear? The real value comes in knowing how flattering they are on the one person who will never get to wear them again. Score!
  4. Hilton's Hooch: Every underage drinker can appreciate fine vodka, especially this gang of thieves. According to Sales' article, a bottle of Grey Goose was stolen from Paris Hilton's very own "nightclub room." For a group of partying teenagers, this steal was invaluable. Who needs a fake ID to buy alcohol when you can get it straight from Paris Hilton's house?
  5. LiLo's Loot: The ringleader of the Bling Ring crew, Rachel Lee, reportedly worshipped Lindsay Lohan. According to Sales' article, Lohan was Rachel's biggest fashion idol. Lee and her crew managed to steal more than $130,000 of clothing and jewelry from Lohan's mansion, making Lee one very happy and well-dressed stalker. Even though surveillance video from Lohan's house ultimately led to the identification of the Bling Ring members, it was at least a very fashionable ride.

The Bling Ring was written, directed and produced by Sofia Coppola and stars Emma Watson. It is coming out in theaters on June 14th.

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Enjoy Your Vacation, But Don't Take a Holiday from Safety

June marks the arrival of two occasions well worth celebrating: vacation season and National Safety Month.

You heard correctly — celebrate National Safety Month. Safety and peace of mind go hand-in-hand, and for this occasion, the best way to celebrate is to participate.

An estimated 136 million Americans will take at least one vacation this summer. To help ensure that you have a great time while you're away, take steps to avoid worrying about how things are going back at home.

Put a few burglar barriers in place

Most burglaries take place in the summer months, according to the FBI. Before you leave town on vacation, follow these guidelines to reduce your risk:

  • Remember to activate your home alarm system. If you have a pre-vacation checklist, put this item at the very top.
  • Don't announce your vacation plans on social media. You never know who might be watching your tweets and status updates, looking for a window of opportunity when your home will be unoccupied.
  • Have someone check in. Ask a relative or trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your home. You could even ask the local police department to send a squad car by periodically.
  • Create the illusion of occupation. An electric timer that turns your lights and TV on and off could be enough to make a potential intruder think twice. You can achieve the same effect with a security system that includes home automation features, like ADT Pulse®.

General rules for staying safe

Of course, safety looms just as large when you're not on vacation. Here's a list of all-purpose tips for maintaining your home security at any time of the year:

  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they have fresh batteries.
  • Keep bushes and hedges trimmed to eliminate shadowy spots where burglars can lurk.
  • To prepare your family for extreme weather events, stock an emergency kit with items like fresh water, non-perishable food and medical supplies.

Don't wait for National Safety Month to roll around. Making safety and home security part of your everyday routine? Now that's something to celebrate.

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Class in Session: Summer School for Home Security

Now's a great time to educate your children about using the alarm system.

Every spring, schools across America ring the year's final bell and more than 50 million students erupt through their doors. However, just because kids are out of school doesn't mean they have to deactivate the part of the brain that helps them learn. (For any future Anatomy & Physiology students, that would be the cerebrum.)

Specifically, summer vacation presents a prime opportunity for families to make sure that all members of the households, including the youngest members, know how to use the home security system.

Familiarity breeds security

The summer break transforms a lot of children from students to all-day latchkey kids. Chances are they'll spend quite a few hours at home without an adult around.

Even if your child has a lot of experience in this area, a refresher course couldn't hurt. The reasons why include:

  • Response in a crisis — Nobody likes to dwell on the subject, but emergencies don't wait for convenient times. Knowing what to do if the siren and flashing lights go off will help your child respond calmly and effectively.
  • Fewer false alarms — Most false alarms happen due to operator error. Knowing how to operate the security system properly will reduce the odds that your child will accidentally trip the alarm.
  • More peace of mind— Spending time alone in an empty house can be intimidating, even for the most mature and independent youngster. A working knowledge of your home alarm system — and the knowledge that professional assistance from a monitoring center will be available if needed — will make the experience less daunting.

A family-friendly solution

Speaking of peace of mind, knowing that they've prepared their sons and daughters to deal with the security alarm will provide parents with their own assurance.

In case you want another safety net, consider a monitoring package with remote access features that let you manage your system from anywhere with a mobile device.

You won't always be there to supervise your children, but you can provide some guidance now by teaching them about the security system. It's a lesson they won't regret learning, not even during summer vacation.

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Celebrate with Safety on Memorial Day

In the pool, at the grill and behind the wheel ... with a little bad luck and a little carelessness, these can be three of the world's more dangerous settings.

As Memorial Day approaches, put safety on your list of things to do right up there with celebration.

Water safety

Drowning claims the lives of thousands of Americans every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Many others require medical attention for near-drowning incidents.

Guidelines for staying safe in the water during your holiday festivities include:

  • Always swim with a buddy, and don't let others swim without one
  • Swim in designated areas under the supervision of a lifeguard
  • Keep an eye on inexperienced swimmers, particularly children
  • If you’re a pool owner, take responsibility for safety — secure the pool with locks and fences, keep life preservers and a first aid kit nearby and don't let anyone swim alone.

If you don't know how to swim, it's probably too late to learn in time for this year's Memorial Day. Contact your local Red Cross and register for swimming lessons so you'll be ready for 2014.

Grilling safety

Ah, the great outdoors … who doesn't love a good meal prepared under the sky and over an open flame? Just make sure that carelessness doesn't leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Here are some useful tips for grilling safely on Memorial Day:

  • Before you fire up the grill, read the owner's manual and commit to following the instructions
  • Make sure to position the grill a safe distance away from the house, the deck and trees
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy — not too close to the flames but within easy reach
  • Remember the saying about too many cooks. Anyone who's not using the grill — including children and pets — should be kept away from it

Highway safety

Last week, the National Safety Council released its estimated traffic toll for the Memorial Day weekend. The number of traffic incidents resulting in injuries is predicted to surpass 40,000.

If you plan to hit the road this weekend, whether it's a short drive across town for a cookout or a cross-country trek to visit relatives, keep these driving safety tips in mind:

  • Wear your seatbelt and make sure that all young children are secure in their car seats
  • Don't drive after consuming alcohol — call a cab or use a designated driver
  • If you feel yourself getting drowsy after long hours behind the wheel, pull over and get some rest
  • Give your cellphone a rest, whether it's talking or texting
  • Avoid speeding and aggressive driving

Keep it safe, make it special

Whether it's a festive holiday or a quiet evening at home, safety helps make any occasion a special occasion. Do your part to keep yourself and others safe this Memorial Day.

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Sneak a Peek at the Winners for the SecurityChoice.com Website Awards

As SecurityChoice.com narrows down the selections for its first annual Website Awards, readers can get a glimpse of some of the preliminary winners for the coveted title of Best Safety Site of the Year.

How SecurityChoice.com chose the winning sites

To become one of the top picks for the Best Safety Site, there's a certain selection process for the websites chosen (so far). The criteria includes:

Relevance

  • How does the site pertain to home security?
  • Does it include applicable information on the topics it covers that readers may want to learn more about in addition to material found on SecurityChoice.com?
  • How significant are the specific areas addressed to homeowners or people who want to learn more about security and safety?

Expertise

  • Would the site/author be considered an authority or expert on the subject their website is about?
  • Do other associations or specialists and professionals in the field support or sponsor the website?

Content

  • Is the website straightforward and can readers easily navigate it and find the information they're looking for?
  • Is the content on the site well-written, easy to follow and useful to the readers?
  • Does the content get updated often and include relevant, topical events and interesting subject matter?

And the winners are…

HealthyChildren.org – Security Choice gives healthychildren.org two thumbs up! Why? This site covers issues for children of all ages, (even prenatal care) all the way up to legal adult status and beyond. There are tools and tips on how to choose the best pediatricians and doctors and lots of information about the American Academy of Pediatrics programs, policies, guidelines, resources, and more. Plus, the site is backed by 60,000 pediatricians.

There are multiple topics about children's' physical and emotional health, nutrition, school and education, safety and prevention and family life. Many homeowners also have families, and this website is an excellent resource for parents looking to educate themselves about specific issues that pertain to their children. They can find trusted healthcare providers and childcare in their area or learn more about how to manage the work-life-school balance, that so many families deal with every day.

Security Choice encourages you to check out healthychildren.org – whether you're a parent, teacher, caregiver or a parent-to-be. You'll find an abundance of helpful information on a variety of different topics, which are updated daily.

National Fire Protection Association – The National Fire Protection Association has been around since 1896 and is the world's leading authority on fire, electrical and building safety. NFPA informs and educates individuals and organizations through awareness, to help reduce the risk of fire and other hazards, and help improve the quality of peoples' lives by administering these tools.

Their website, www.nfpa.org, provides a list of more than 300 consensus codes and standards, which are used in (and affect) building, design, and installation in countries around the world. The NFPA's membership of more than 70,000 individuals can supply valuable information on the latest safety requirements and best practices for fire prevention, which is a very relevant topic to homeowners and home safety.

Not only is there material for professionals in the building and electrical professions, but also for the general public, including homeowners. Readers will find content on topics such as fire safety and prevention for adults, children, and seniors, fire-safe cigarette usage and education, firework prevention, campaigns for home safety (such as the Fire Sprinkler Initiative) and more.

NFPA.org makes its research, training guides, seminars, events, annual reports and publications available to the public in order to help people educate themselves on the importance of fire safety and more. A news feed with daily updates on the latest information and events will help keep you informed, and you can become a member for exclusive access to many instrumental tools.

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Best Safety Site of the Year: Could it be Yours?

SecurityChoice.com is announcing its first ever website awards!

Do you read an extremely resourceful security blog or website that you'd recommend to others who want valuable safety information? We're looking for the best information on security topics for the home, family, pets, travel, money saving tips and more, nominated by readers like you.

Go to SecurityChoice.com Website Awards and nominate your favorite website. Tell Security Choice your choice, today!

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Home Security: Hedge Your Bets with Landscaping...

You don't need a uniform and a badge to be a crimefighter. In some cases, a floppy hat and some gard...

Read More...

Security Cameras Make it Difficult for Criminals to Cove...

A murder suspect who allegedly disabled his home security system to get rid of potentially incrimina...

Read More...

Oh, Say Can You See a Safer Summer?...

Learn how to protect yourself from potential hazards of the season Before we dive into the subject ...

Read More...

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