Money Talks, So Should You

Is it worth it: Home security system

Clint Williams
by Clint Williams, Dimespring Contributor

While most people are taking it easy during the summer – spending a week lounging at the beach or relaxing at a mountain cabin – burglars are working overtime. The summer months of July and August have the highest rates of burglaries, usually about a 10-percent increase over other times of the year, according to FBI statistics.

A home security system – in addition to good deadbolt locks – may discourage an opportunistic thief.

The issue

The risk of burglary has declined a bit over the years. While the number of burglaries has bumped along steadily at about 2.1 million a year over the last decade or so, the rate of burglaries per 100,000 has dropped from 741.8 in 2001 to 699.6 in 2010. Theft claims represent about 3 percent of all insurance claims each year.

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But it doesn’t take much – laptops, televisions, DVD players, jewelry – to add up to a costly loss. Jeanne M. Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute pegs the average dollar loss per burglary at more than $1,700.

The breakdown

A home security system can deter a would-be burglar – and reduce the time a persistent one spends inside hauling off your stuff. The probability of burglary is 13.8 percent for alarmed properties on busy residential streets compared to 18.9 percent for similarly located unalarmed properties, according to a study of Greenwich, Conn. crime statistics by Dr. Simon Kakim of Temple University. Average loss from burglary is $3,266 when there is an alarm and $5,343 when there is no alarm, according to the same study.

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The cost of a home security system can range from $100 to more than $5,000 – with a monthly monitoring fee of $25 to $40 or higher. Also adding to the possible cost – many cities and towns will charge you for responding to false alarms.

But an alarm system also results in homeowner’s insurance discounts of 15 to 20 percent. That savings could be enough to pay for the monthly monitoring.

The decision to install a home security system is about more than dollars and cents, says security expert Robert Siciliano, author of “99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen.”

“If a person’s home is invaded or burglarized, they quickly lose that sense of security and never feel the same way again,” Siciliano says. “Some people even quickly sell below market value just to get out from what has become a perceived black cloud over their property.

“Simply locking your doors is a start and taking control like this doesn’t mean you are paranoid. Then taking the next steps and installing a home security system is the smartest thing you can do.”

The verdict

While installing a home security system may cut your insurance costs, it’s an expense, not an investment. Frankly, you’ll never really know how many break-ins it prevents.

But if it buys you some measure of peace of mind – it’s hard to put a price tag on that. Just put it in the right spot among the priority of your expenses – above dining out, maybe, but below disability insurance.


Clint Williams is an Arizona-based freelancer for DImespring. He has written for the Arizona Republic and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.