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Home Security Gadgets Inspire 'Newphoria'

Thanks to antivirus software makers Norton, the thrill associated with buying the latest gadget has a name: newphoria. And it seems that home security consumers are just as susceptible to newphoric urges as anyone else.

The home security market has seen plenty of gizmos, devices and contraptions in recent years. Many of them appear quite useful while others seem … useful but a bit odd.

These gadgets might not take the place of comprehensive alarm monitoring, but you can always use them to augment your existing home security system.

Gadgets are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 game controllers

1 controller = minor newphoria … 5 controllers = newphoria nirvana

Robot rovers

Roomba, meet Panic Room-ba.

A few toymakers have tested the waters of home security with remote-control miniature drones. You can buy a toy robot equipped with a camera and microphone, allowing you to see and hear what your little mobile minion is picking up as it patrols from room to room.

Some enterprising homeowners have even modified their robots to include accessories like tiny fire extinguishers and headlights. Very high-tech — not to mention adorable.

Newphoria rating: 5 controllers

Pepper powderkegs

Nothing tells a burglar "You picked the wrong house" quite like a face full of liquid hell.

Some home security companies sell pepper-spray dispersal systems that can be mounted on your wall or ceiling. When an unsuspecting intruder activates the infrared trigger, several ounces of OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) envelops the room.

And if you're accident-prone (or plagued with a profound sense of irony), a time-delay function reduces your chances of setting off the device and pepper-spraying yourself.

Newphoria rating: 3 controllers

Fingerprint smartlocks

Tired of fumbling with your keychain? Afraid of crafty burglars with locksmithing skills? The answer is at your fingertips.

Just install a fingerprint recognition door lock. An optical sensor scans your digit's unique signature, providing you with a key that an intruder could never duplicate. Don't worry — they also come with regular backup keys in case the batteries run out.

Newphoria rating: 4 controllers

Alarm padlocks

It looks like an ordinary padlock, complete with metal shackle. If someone tries to tamper with it, however, a tiny, built-in siren emits a shrill wail as loud as 100 decibels.

By the way, 100 decibels is comparable to a steel mill and a rock concert.

Newphoria rating: 1 controller

Peephole cameras

Why peer through that tiny aperture with the naked eye when technology can do it for you from a distance?

This device displays the view from your peephole on a 3-inch LCD screen. It also lets you record and save images. Motion sensors and knock detectors activate the viewer automatically so that you have a record of every visitor who graced (or darkened) your doorstep even when you're not at home.

Newphoria rating: 3 controllers

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What's the Worst City for Burglaries?

Don't overlook population numbers in relation to total break-ins.

Does having the most break-ins automatically earn your city the title of Burglary Capital of the United States? Ask the residents of Houston, Texas, who include a large number of rocket scientists and other people with a good understanding of numbers.

The FBI's 2011 Uniform Crime Report revealed that Houston had the most burglaries of any American city the previous year, with 27,459 reported cases. Only one other city, Chicago, had more than 20,000 break-ins.

However, delving deeper into the numbers suggests that other cities actually had it worse.

Rates vs. the raw numbers

With 2.1 million living within its borders, Houston is the nation's fourth most populous city. Many cities have much less burglary than Houston, but also many fewer residents.

To get a better picture, remember how the FBI determines another figure — crime rates. The rate for a city is the number of offenses per 100,000 people. The number of crimes factors into the process, but so does the population.

Based on burglaries per 100,000 people, Houston does not rank first on a list of cities with high burglary rates —or second, or third, or even fourth.

More statistically prevalent

If you measure burglary by the per-100,000 scale, a list of cities with the highest break-in rates stacks up like this:

Burglaries per 100,000 residents

  1. Detroit - 2,242
  2. Columbus, Ohio - 1,926
  3. Indianapolis - 1,815
  4. Dallas - 1,531
  5. Houston - 1,281
  6. Phoenix - 1,273
  7. San Antonio - 1,131
  8. Chicago - 977
  9. Los Angeles - 449
  10. New York - 221

While Detroit (15,994 burglaries) had a little more than half as many cases as Houston, its smaller population (713,239) makes burglary statistically more prevalent. You see a similar effect when you factor in the smaller populations of Columbus, Indianapolis and Dallas. Add in the fact that Detroit's population has shrunk by an estimated 25 percent since the year 2000 and you can understand why the problem of burglary is more pronounced in the Motor City.

The answer to the question "Which city has the most burglaries?" can depend on context. A large city like Houston can have more cases, but populations of smaller cities may feel the crime more deeply.

Houston, you still have a problem

The FBI's 2011 report listed the nationwide rate of burglaries per 100,000 people at 703, meaning that cities such as Houston, Detroit, Columbus, Indianapolis and others remain well above the national norm.

To help keep the burglary numbers down in your community, considering starting a neighborhood watch or investing in home security monitoring.

From Texas to the Tar Heel State, homeowners can agree that if even one burglary strikes their neighborhood, it will feel like too many.

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Security Customers Confirm That Monitoring Matters

A simple burglar alarm can alert you to a break-in with an electronic beep or wail. When you add professional monitoring to the equation, you get a lot more than bells and whistles.

Research by the security system review site has identified 24-hour alarm monitoring as one of the most important features that customers look for in a home alarm system. Considering the benefits it brings, the desirability of alarm monitoring is easy to understand.

Providing emergency response

Security monitoring service provides homeowners with an additional layer of protection, thanks to trained specialists at high-tech facilities.

The term "monitoring center" doesn't really do justice to the work that gets done at these places. Monitoring professionals do more than simply observe. When they receive the electronic notification of an alarm signal, they respond quickly.

The dispatcher will attempt to call you to verify the alarm. If you confirm that it's an emergency, or if you can't be reached, the dispatcher will call the authorities.

Providing rapid response to alarm signals is the heart and soul of security monitoring. For example, ADT's Customer Monitoring Centers handle more than 29 million alarm signals and respond to more than 50,000 crimes in progress every year.

Why the details matter

Many home security services operate only one monitoring center, and in some cases, the security provider delegates monitoring duties to a separate company.

On the other hand, having multiple centers offers a definite advantage. With a true monitoring network, customers have the reassurance of knowing that back-ups are available in case one center runs into technical problems.

Another factor that makes a difference is the type of monitoring options. Security companies that offer cellular monitoring provide an option for homeowners who don't have landline phone service.

It's an important response to an emerging consumer trend. According to federal researchers, the number of American households with no landline telephones reached 35 percent in 2012.

Three C's of home security

In addition to 24-hour monitoring, also lists cellular connectivity on its list of must-haves. Other consumer favorites include brand-name equipment covered by warranties and remote access.

So when you think of monitoring and other features that home security customers prefer, remember the three C's: coverage, control and convenience.

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Securing Your Home for That Spring Break Vacation

Don't assume that Spring Break belongs exclusively to rowdy college students. Every year, millions of American families take to the road, the skies and the water to enjoy experiences that they won't regret uploading to Instagram.

Market research analysts have estimated the number of families taking Spring Break vacations at around 10 million a year. If your family will be among those 10 million this spring, follow these home security guidelines to help ensure that you'll find everything just the way you left it when the vacation's over.

  • Got a home security system? Use it.
    Traveling involves a lot of logistics, especially with children in tow. When making your pre-vacation checklist, don't forget to include a reminder about arming your home security system before leaving town.
  • Curb your enthusiasm for social media.
    Feel like you can't wait to tell all your Facebook friends about your travel plans? Actually, you can and you should. When it comes to social media, you never know who might be watching (and taking note that your house will be unoccupied). Share your tweets and photos after you get back.
  • Believe in the buddy system.
    Do you have a neighbor or relative you trust implicitly? Congratulations — your vacation security plan just got easier. Let this buddy know you'll be gone and ask him or her to keep an eye on your home, pick up your mail or newspaper, etc. Also, contact the local police and ask for a patrol car to roll by every now and then.

Following these tips will help keep your home safe while you're enjoying your Spring Break getaway. If your security system includes home automation features, you can add an extra layer of protection. Just program the system to control your lighting and create the appearance that the house is occupied.

By automatically switching the lights on and off instead of just leaving them on, you might even save some money on your next electric bill — and apply those savings to next year's vacation, maybe.

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Cause for (False) Alarm: What You Can Do to Help

It's an issue that has caught the attention of everyone from the Department of Justice to the guerrilla economists at security system false alarms.

Police respond to millions of alarm activations every year, and most of those calls (many estimates put the number at more than 90 percent) turn out to be false alarms. As you might expect, the associated costs in terms of law enforcement resources are considerable.

Much of the debate over false alarms focuses on those costs, and how to recoup them.

Meanwhile, the security industry has made the reduction of false alarms a top priority. The Security Industry Alarm Coalition, a security system trade group, collaborated with various law enforcement organizations to develop "best practices" model ordinances for local governments.

However, security system users who are more interested in practicality than policy would probably be satisfied with knowing how they can avoid false alarms in the first place.

Who pays, and how?

To deal with the costs of false alarms, dozens of local law enforcement agencies and municipalities across the country have enacted systems of permits and penalties.

Sometimes, businesses and homeowners must pay to register their alarm systems. In other cases, the local government charges the provider and costs are passed on to the consumer indirectly.

When a false alarm occurs, the security system users must pay a fine — typically after two warnings in the same 12-month period. (At different points in time, some local governments have expressed interest in fining the alarm companies themselves rather than their customers.)

Fines can range anywhere from $25 to $100 per incident. Some local governments also require the alarm subscriber to have the system inspected.

How to avoid them

The most common causes of false alarms include:

  • Pets
  • Improper installation
  • Human error

Fortunately, a top-quality alarm system provider can help you reduce your risk for false alarms.

Pets — A security system with a pet-sensitive motion detector can be programmed to disregard the movement of your animal companions.

Improper installation — Many security providers offer professional installation. For example, a trained installer will know to avoid placing motion detectors near heating and cooling vents, where sudden gusts of air can create the illusion of an intruder.

Human error — It's common for professional installers to show homeowners how their new security systems work. Also, systems that offer guess access codes make it easier for trusted visitors like babysitters and relatives to enter your home without incident.

Be informed, not afraid

The key components of the SIAC's model ordinances include awareness and outreach — educating members of the public. In this respect, the subject of false alarms is no different than any other issue. Addressing the problem will require a better-informed public as an essential ingredient.

Don't let anxiety about false alarms keep you from enjoying home security benefits. Contact your security provider and find out what steps you can take to be part of the solution.

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Digitally Deputized: Using Private Security Cameras to Fight Crime

A California suburb has become the latest American city to try enlisting the public in an effort to keep an eye on crime — technologically speaking.

Police officials in San Ramon, a city of 72,000 located east of San Francisco, recently unveiled a program that asks the owners of private security cameras to register these devices with the police department. Authorities would use footage captured by the cameras to assist in the arrest and prosecution of criminals.

According to a description of the Citizen's View program on the San Ramon Police Department website:

"Many business owners and residents currently operate surveillance systems at their businesses and/or homes. As crimes occur nearby, they are not always aware that their system may have captured information that could help solve the crime, thus keeping our community safer. In turn, the police are also not always aware who may have this potentially vital information."

Police also encourage participating residents and business owners to download and post a sign announcing their cooperation — and warning potential lawbreakers.

Recruiting citizen crime fighters

This type of public-private approach to crime solutions has grown more common in recent years, particularly in larger, cash-strapped cities where the alternatives can include freezing or cutting police budgets. A article noted in September 2012: "Increasingly, cities are enlisting private security forces and citizen watchdogs as crime fighters."

San Ramon, California, joins a list of cities that have seen similar initiatives enacted or proposed. That list includes:

  • Philadelphia, which launched the SafeCam program for business and home security cameras in 2011
  • Chicago, home of the CHICAGO Plan (Citizens Helping Identify Criminal And Gang Offenses) that relies on the help of business-owned surveillance cameras
  • Newark, New Jersey, where city officials have proposed a mandatory security camera program for bars and liquor stores. Any business that sells liquor would be required to install surveillance cameras at all entrances and exits and in parking lots.

What would you do?

For most homeowners and business operators looking to improve their safety by using cameras and other types of security monitoring, this trend probably doesn't factor into the decision.

Should the trend continue, however, owners of private security cameras shouldn't rule out the possibility that the local police department could someday ask for — or demand — their help.

If that does happen, they can consider themselves digitally deputized.

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A Global Perspective on Home Security

Life has certain constants that pay no attention to boundaries, whether they're cultural or geographical. A home in Paris, France can be just as vulnerable to threats like burglary and fire as a home in Paris, Texas.

In 2010, The New York Times estimated that 16 percent of U.S. homes had security systems. What about homeowners in other countries, though? What are the differences in technology, availability and marketing?

The economic landscape

The market research firm Global Industry Analysts has developed a worldwide profile of the security services industry for commercial and residential customers. The numbers — including the revenues — are impressive.

The analysis includes the following findings:

The U.S. market

Number of companies: 5,000

Total annual revenue: $16 billion

Revenue distribution: More than half is generated by the 50 largest companies

The global market

Total annual revenue: $40 billion

Largest markets: North America and Europe

Biggest players: Providers like ADT and Protection One (U.S.), G4S (United Kingdom), Secom (Japan) and Securitas (Sweden)

Industry and infrastructure

Familiar products and services like access control, security monitoring services and home automation are available to customers from Europe to Asia.

Many large security providers operate internationally. For example, Visonic Group is based in Israel and has subsidiaries that sell security products as far away as Latin America and the Caribbean.

However, some parts of the world face specific disadvantages when it comes to technology.

Electronic monitoring has become a staple of alarm systems, but countries with underdeveloped telephone systems and wireless networks may struggle to provide this service on the same scale enjoyed by customers in other nations.

Panic buttons for unstable regions

You've probably seen security providers advertise personal emergency pendants, mainly for seniors and people with medical conditions. This kind of technology has different applications in countries where kidnapping and ransom schemes are prevalent.

In these parts of the world, security providers offer anti-kidnapping devices that use "human tracking" technology. If someone is abducted, the device transmits a signal that can help the authorities determine their location.

A small world

Despite a number of variations, home security largely remains a universal language. People all over the world have the same desires to protect their homes, their families and their possessions.

And as the standard of living continues to improve in emerging economic powers like China and India, people will have more to protect.

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Home Security at the White House

The strategy that protects America's most famous home/office building brings to mind the proverbial iceberg. There's the tip, and then there's everything that lies beneath the surface.

A home security website has compiled an infographic focusing on the unseen details of White House security. The graphic goes beyond the highly visible reinforced iron fence and concrete barriers, addressing both rumors (anti-aircraft missile launchers on the roof) and facts (all food is carefully screened).

"We're primarily trying to perform a public service by providing this knowledge in a fun and simple way to understand," site manager Ty Collins said.

A host of threats

Naturally, many details of White House security remain classified. However, the graphic does list several kinds of technologies and procedures known to the public.

The protocols for protecting the White House include:

  • A radar array on the roof to monitor air traffic
  • Magnetometer screening for visitors
  • Radiation detectors
  • Infrared sensors for detection of intruders and fire
  • Bullet-resistant windows
  • A pressurized, filtered air system

Human resources

The Secret Service has become an instantly recognizable symbol of the presidency — dark-suited agents trotting beside the presidential limo or vigilantly scanning a crowd from behind mirrored sunglasses.

These operatives are the human face of White House security. The infographic also offers details on their role.

For instance, the Secret Service has 1,200 uniformed and 2,800 plainclothes agents in the D.C. area. They're authorized to carry pistols, shotguns and machine guns. Twenty-nine Secret Service agents have died in the line of duty, and only one president — John F. Kennedy — has been killed on the agency's watch.

From the White House to your house

As a typical homeowner, you don't have the need — or the desire — for these kinds of elaborate measures in home security systems. Companies like ADT are perfectly capable of helping you make your home safer from a variety of hazards, including burglary and fire.

Whether you're the leader of the free world or the leader of your son's Cub Scout pack, home security means a lot. Talk to a home security provider today.

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Look at Your Home Through a Burglar's Eyes

Before you can counteract a potential threat, it helps to understand what you're up against.

For years, police officers and academics have tried to get inside the heads of criminals and gain a better understanding of their motivations. You can help the authorities do their job —and strike a blow for your own safety and security — by looking at your home through the eyes of an intruder.

Getting help from the bad guys

In their search for perspective, sometimes law enforcement enlists the help of lawbreakers.

It's not that uncommon for a convicted criminal to share his insights with police as part of a probation agreement. Many examples of this "send a thief to catch a thief approach" involve the crime of burglary.

An experienced burglar has a wealth of ill-gotten knowledge. Those who choose to share their trade secrets provide a lot of useful information for police and homeowners alike.

Things a burglar likes to see

  • No interior lights — Burglars generally prefer to strike when no one's home
  • An overflowing mailbox — A sign that the homeowner is out of town for an extended period
  • Untrimmed shrubs and hedges — These create shadows and places to hide
  • Goods on display — Like a shelf full of collectibles near a window

Things that make a burglar think twice

  • Warning signs — Yard signs and decals announcing the presence of a community watch association or a monitored home security system
  • Deadbolts — A stout lock is one of a burglar's worst enemies
  • Exterior lighting — Keep yards, porches, etc., as well-lit as possible
  • Window bars and padlocked garage doors — Burglars tend to avoid hardened targets

Make a visual inspection

Police recommend conducting a periodic walk-through around your home to look for any gaps in security. When you do, keep an eye out for the points listed above. Would a burglar like what he sees, or would he think twice?

By taking proactive measures, you can help ensure that criminal eyes will see your home as an uninviting target.

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Surveillance vs. subterfuge: Do dummy cameras really work?

Some homeowners and businesses turn to dummy security cameras as an alternative to an actual surveillance system. Proponents argue that the devices don’t have to be real — they just have to convince wrongdoers that they are.

Appearances can be deceiving

Unfortunately, a cheaply made dummy camera may not fool an experienced criminal. For instance, a veteran burglar could take the time to examine the device to see if it has a real lens as opposed to a non-transparent piece of plastic.

Manufacturers and sellers of fake security cameras know that the appearance of authenticity matters. These days you can find dummy devices made from the casings of broken or obsolete real cameras.

Some dummy-cams even feature blinking red lights and small servo motors that enable them to pan back and forth periodically.

Flaws in the façade

No matter how well-made the fakes may be, security experts can point out some of the drawbacks of dummy surveillance cameras, such as:

  • They create a false sense of security.
  • A criminal who takes the time to sniff out a fake may assume (perhaps correctly) that his intended victim has no actual security equipment. If so, he could decide a robbery is worth the risk.
  • Video from an actual security camera can be used as evidence in a court of law. If you have no camera, you have no footage if a burglary does take place.

Find a real, affordable solution

Proponents of dummy cameras cite inexpensive prices as a selling point. Although you can buy fake surveillance cameras cheap, a more practical security solution may be much more affordable than you think.

ADT offers answers on affordability and many other security-related questions. Even if your security needs don't involve anything as elaborate as surveillance cameras, you can still enjoy ADT's 24-hour monitoring for about $1 a day.

With real solutions available from trusted providers like ADT, homeowners don't have to wager their security on a deceptive deterrent.

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Home Security Gadgets Inspire 'Newphoria'...

Thanks to antivirus software makers Norton, the thrill associated with buying the latest gadget has ...


What's the Worst City for Burglaries?...

Don't overlook population numbers in relation to total break-ins. Does having the most break-ins au...


Security Customers Confirm That Monitoring Matters...

A simple burglar alarm can alert you to a break-in with an electronic beep or wail. When you add pro...


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