Although overall crime figures have fallen, burglary is on the rise. According to the British Crime Survey, there was a 14% increase in burglaries in England and Wales in 2010 compared to 2009. Burglary rates have risen especially in London; a report from the Met shows that there were 1,061 more burglaries in May 2011 than there were in May 2010.
“The best thing about an intruder alarm is that it acts as a deterrent,” says Lisa Gosney, from Lofthouse Security Systems in West Yorkshire. The Crime Survey points out that homes without simple security measures are ‘considerably’ more likely to be burgled.
As well as acting as a deterrent, burglar alarms help to catch intruders and scare them away, providing you with peace of mind. “If it’s a professional intruder, then nothing is going to stop them from breaking in but an alarm will definitely make it more difficult for them, or even scare them off,” explains Simon Vivian, from Action Alarms in Hampshire.
Many burglar alarms use a circuit break system, for example, switches will be placed either side of a window which create a circuit when closed. If an intruder breaks this connection by forcing the window open, this sends a signal to the control box, setting off the alarm.
Motion detector alarms have become more reliable and less likely to go off accidently. They work by sending out an infrared beam of radiation which is picked up some distance away by a receiver. If something intercepts this beam, the alarm is triggered. For top security, you should combine a mixture of circuit and motion detectors in your property.
Hard wired alarms are built into the building with alarm sensors connected to the control panel with cables. Simon states that: “People may need hard wired systems if they want more complex alarm systems.” Wireless alarms used to be thought of as more temperamental than hard wired systems, but as new technology has developed; they have become just as reliable.“Wireless alarms are popular because they don’t take so much time to install because there are no cables to put in,” explains Lisa.
Audible alarms are useful as a deterrent and for scaring an intruder away, but do not directly alert police. However: “If an alarm goes off, a burglar isn’t likely to hang around,” points out Simon. “They don’t know whether the alarm is connected to the police station or if a neighbour might hear and come round.” As 92% of all alarm activations turn out to be false, police will only respond to these alarms if, for example, they also get a call from a witness.
When a monitored alarm is triggered a signal is sent to an alarm receiving centre (ARC) who will take action. To ensure that the police respond to the alarm, it will need to be registered and given a unique reference number. Simon explains: “Monitoring systems offer more security because they alert the police. We install them mostly in commercial and high end residential properties.” More sophisticated systems which can notify the ARC if the telephone line is cut are also now available.
“The most common type of intruder alarm for households is a speech dial, that calls you and plays a recorded message when the alarm is triggered,” says Simon. Not as expensive as monitoring but more secure than a bells only intruder alarm, a speech dial is a good choice for homeowners and allows you to keep an eye on your home from afar.
According to the Metropolitan Police, you should choose an alarm system that meets European standards EN50131. Lisa explains that: “Regular maintenance and servicing will ensure that your alarm system lasts longer and performs better. It will also dramatically reduce the number of alarm system failures.” European standards and insurance companies require you to carry out this maintenance and if you have a monitored system, so do police.
Lisa suggests that a speech dial alarm system may cost around £300 - £400. Price will vary depending on how sophisticated a system you choose, Simon states that: “A monitoring system could be anything from about £800 upwards. On top of that you have to pay the monitoring costs which start at around £200 - £250 a year.”
Most importantly, choose an alarm installer who is registered with a company like the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) who will adhere to current regulations. Most will do a site
survey and consultation before offering a quote and the NSI recommends you get at least three quotes before hiring an installer.