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Homeowners Confronting Burglars

by Amy December 17, 2012

We are excited to continue the series of guest blogs by Peter Rogers, Co-Founder & Senior Advisor, of FrontPoint Security Solutions.  Peter has more than 20 years of home security experience, including leadership positions at some of the country’s most prominent alarm companies.

Wireless Home Security – More Warnings on Confronting Burglars: Topeka, Kansas Police Offer Strong Advice

Every police department in the US agrees on this important advice: do not, under any circumstances, confront a burglar in your home. The big problem is that you don’t always know that an intruder is in your home when you walk through the door – especially if you have no alarm system or monitoring service to alert police, and scare the burglar off. It’s a dangerous situation when you enter your home thinking all is well, and encounter someone in the act of stealing your cash, jewelry, or electronics. When you have no warning, as happened in this story from Gary, Indiana, the results can be frightening – or as in this case, fatally tragic.

A Gary man came home from work for lunch Friday, and was shot and killed when relatives say he interrupted a burglary in progress. Relatives are grieving as police search for the killer of Jerry Hood, 48, shot in his home on 8th Avenue about noon Friday. Hood was declared dead on the scene at 1:05 p.m. Friday and died from multiple gunshot wounds in a homicide at his home, the Lake County, Ind., coroner’s office said in a news release. According to relatives, Hood was a hard-working family man. He was a single father raising a teenage girl—who has now lost both her parents.

Typical: a day-time burglary, when intruders expect that nobody is home. As is usually the case in these situations – and I could cite countless more from daily crime reports – chances are there was no alarm system in the home of the victim. In fact, only about 20% of US homes do have a monitored alarm system that can trigger a police dispatch. Imagine how much safer you would feel when entering your home at any time of day or night, without worrying about who might be there. And with interactive monitoring services, such as those offered by today’s best alarm companies, you can also receive a text or email any time a door opens, telling you which door. That’s the kind of protection more people are looking for, as home intrusion statistics continue to get worse across much of the US.

Topeka Police Offer Advice – and Caution

During a 48-hour stretch in early October, a handful of Topekans appeared to be anointing themselves honorary lawmen amid a rare set of circumstances in which two families interrupted burglaries and helped to apprehend the alleged intruders by giving chase. The two suspected burglars ultimately were arrested by police and are due back in court Thursday for hearings. Capt. Brian Desch said the Topeka Police Department doesn’t have a policy regarding burglary victims running down intruders, but officials discourage people from trying to make an apprehension on their own.

It’s Not Worth Risking Your Life

For every story where a burglar is caught, Desch said in a recent interview, there are an equal number that lead to residents suffering injuries or getting killed. “In our view, no property is worth the price of a human life,” he said. Desch acknowledges “there is some value” in following a burglar while relaying to dispatchers crucial information, but preferably from a safer distance to lessen the danger.

Police recommend that when interrupting a break-in, unless victims are physically confronted or threatened, people should be the best witnesses they can while removing themselves from a potentially dangerous encounter. “Burglars will do a lot once cornered in a house to try to get out,” Desch said.

A Case in Point

On Oct. 5, Edil Castillo pulled up next to his house on S.E. 10th with his long-time girlfriend and her 16-year-old nephew. Castillo flushed an intruder out of his home and pursued him, but not before police said the teenager was punched and had a handgun pointed at his face. Officers later arrested the suspected burglar after he had eluded Castillo in a lengthy chase. This is an example of when an outcome could have drastically shifted for the worse if the suspect had pulled the trigger, Desch said. “We’d rather you call us and we’ll make sure your house is safe before you go into it,” he stated.

More Good Advice

Recent cases don’t lead Desch to believe Topekans are growing so fed up with property crime as to become reckless in an effort to try to curb it. Far more often residents first call authorities to report an intruder may be inside their home before acting in another way, he said. Police will arrive, clear the house and then go back in with the residents. Crucial to being a good witness is making use of this era’s technology. Desch said most people have cell phones capable of taking video or photographs. Snap a quick picture of a suspicious vehicle and its license plate, he said, or shoot video if people come running out of a house.

One important recommendation often overlooked by police is the fact that a monitored home alarm system can prevent these confrontations in the first place. And that’s why so many more homeowners are shopping for true peace of mind, and why electronic security is included on this list of Top 10 Home Security Tips. With only one in five homes protected by a monitored alarm system, and a burglary occurring every 14 seconds in the US, there are still lots of homes – and homeowners – left to protect.

Home Safety Tips for the Holidays

by Amy December 3, 2012

 

Home Safety & Crime Prevention Tips for the 2012 Holiday Season

Each year as the holidays approach, we are often distracted by the hustle and bustle of festivities.  So, we’d like to share some tips for keeping your home secure and your family safe with My Alarm Center Home Security Services, whether your plans include travel, entertaining or relaxing at home this year.

Home Security & Safety Tips for the Holiday Traveler:

Homes are certainly more susceptible to intrusion when homeowners are traveling, especially for an extended period of time. Here are a few home security tips to help ensure your property is safe, and your home doesn’t become an easy target for burglars while you’re out of town:

Make it look like your home is occupied and active.  It is not necessary to invest in gadgets to make your home look lived in, such as those on FakeTV, featured in Wired Magazine’s Gadget Lab holiday travel safety article this November. Many home security system providers now offer interactive home monitoring and remote home automation – like MyHome, by My Alarm Center – that enable control and management of lights, climate, alarm systems, and surveillance cameras via your mobile device.

Maintain your property.  Simply keeping your driveway and paths clear of snow by arranging for snow removal is important for your own personal safety, and also discourages burglars because it signals someone is home.

Check your outdoor security equipment. Severe winter weather could damage your outdoor equipment. Test your system regularly, and ensure that sensors and video equipment are always free and clear of snow.

Make sure holiday lighting doesn’t create an unsecured entry point to your home. Running a cable from inside the house often requires you to open a window, which is an ideal entry point for a burglar.Use outdoor electrical circuits to run your holiday lighting.

Home Security & Safety Tips for the Holiday Host:

Keep valuables secure when hosting guests. Holiday parties are a great opportunity to welcome new friends and family members. Ensure valuables are stowed away and lock up items that could pose a threat to children such as medicine and gun cabinets.

Dispose of gift packaging.  Don’t advertise the contents of your home to burglars, dispose of your gift packaging in black bags so a burglar can’t see what new goodies are in your home.

Personal Safety Tips

Protect your identity. Always shred your receipts (but not important warranty information). Don’t give burglars a chance to steal your identity.  Investing in identity theft protection services through companies like TrustedID, a My Alarm Center partner, is an effective option to help protect you against identity theft not only during the holidays but all year-round.

Stay in the know. Keep aware of crime trends locally (especially as crime tends to increase during the holidays); it’s often helpful to follow local crime alerts and updates via local authorities and via sites like Patch.com and others. For example:

·        Patch.com for Bellevue, WA outside of Seattle, Washington

·         Patch.com for Radnor, PA outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Doing holiday shopping? Thieves are out shopping too.  Don’t buy more than you can carry to your car in one trip, as thieves are often on the lookout for shoppers making multiple trips to their car. Seattle Police recommend making sure that anything of value inside your car is stored completely out of sight. The Philadelphia Police department advises shoppers to be aware of crime risks in-person as well as online, listing several helpful tips to keep purchases and credit and debit card data secure during the holidays. Local news sources like CBS Philly post even more great tips to ensure holiday shopping safety such as how to avoid becoming a victim of the latest trends in scams, or fake Facebook promotions and even mobile apps designed to gather personal data.

Have a tip you’d like to share? Email us at blog@myalarmcenter.com with suggestions for our next holiday safety blog post!

Thanks for taking time to observe these simple tips, and enjoy a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Happy Holidays,

Your Friends at My Alarm Center

Crime Spotlight – Seattle, WA

by Amy November 16, 2012

We are excited to feature the first in a series of monthly blogs by Peter Rogers, Co-Founder & Senior Advisor, of FrontPoint Security Solutions.  Peter has more than 20 years of wireless home security experience, including leadership positions at some of the country’s most prominent alarm companies.

Residential Crime Trends – Police Bust Burglars in Seattle with Help from Apple Technology

Known for its physical beauty and temperate year-round climate, Seattle, Washington has traditionally experienced higher property crime rates than the rest of the US. In fact, according to the FBI, the incidence of home intrusion in the Emerald City runs half again as high as the national average. But thanks to a smart burglary victim and some good police work, one Seattle neighborhood should now be a little safer, as described in this recent news report.

A man’s search for his stolen iPad helped lead Seattle police to a home in Seattle’s Capitol Hill filled with stolen technology devices and bicycles. Using a cellphone app, the burglary victim tracked his stolen iPad to a home doubling as a computer repair workshop near 12th Avenue East and East Mercer Street on Friday, according to Seattle police.

Not the First Time Police Tracked an Apple Device

This story reminds me of the recent burglary in Palo Alto, California: in that case, the thief happened to break into the home of Steve Jobs’ family, and stole a number of Apple devices. Police were able to track down the stolen devices, and catch the burglar in a short time.

What Happened This Time

The burglary victim called police to accompany him when he knocked on the residence’s door. Once they made contact, the man activated the app on his phone and his iPad made a sound that could be heard inside the home. Officers arrested a 41-year-old suspect and booked him into King County Jail for investigation of possession of stolen property.

More Stolen Items Recovered

After getting a search warrant to go through the rest of the home, detectives found computers, computer parts and high-end bicycles in the basement, shed and garage, according to the department’s online blotter. “There appears to be quite a number of items from recent area burglaries at this location,” the department’s blotter said. “This remains an active and on-going investigation, and detectives have quite a bit of evidence to sift through.”

A smart burglar might realize that this tracking ability exists: but then again, most burglars aren’t that smart – by definition. Even so, we do know a lot about burglar behavior. For instance, we know exactly where burglars break in, and what burglars steal. But what’s harder to figure out is why only one in five US homes have a monitored alarm system, with a burglary occurring every 14 seconds!

It makes sense to do everything you can so your home is not a target. You can start with installing a monitored alarm system and some cameras. Your peace of mind is worth a lot, and there’s nothing more important than protecting your home and family. And make sure you have those tracking apps loaded!

Top 5 Real Time Alerts: Favorites That Blend Wireless Home Security Systems With Convenience

by Amy November 5, 2012

As we’ve been expanding services and offerings at My Alarm Center to extend beyond the traditional “alarm system,” we can’t help but take note of several offerings and home security services that are most popular with customers. In today’s post we’ll focus on Real Time Alerts which have been offered by My Alarm Center for some time, but have recently become very popular among parents, working professionals, and those who own rental/vacation properties.

When MyHome by My Alarm Center launched, our customers opted in for basic home alarm system real time alert triggers like alarm activation and deactivation activity.  However, as more people subscribed to the home security service every day, several alerts are becoming clear favorites.  This got us to wondering:  Are you subscribed to the 5 Most Popular Real Time Alerts at My Alarm Center (powered by Alarm.com)? 

1. ShowNo Show Alerts letting subscribers know, through their monitoring services, when their children have arrived home from school, or that the dog walker has arrived on-time.

“I have alerts set to keep tabs on my 13-year-old, I get text messages that alert me when the house is disarmed as she’s arrived home from school or after-school activities. It gives me great piece of mind when I am at the office.”

                -Laura S. of Merion, PA

2. Video Activity Alerts: Letting residents know when any motion/activity has been captured by video surveillance security cameras. Not only a great security feature to prevent theft/loss, this is a great feature for homeowners who may prefer that certain areas of their home are kept private from children, guests, or renters. 

 “I live in Seattle and have a rental property in Florida. The Video Alerts send me a notification if there is activity in our basement that is not accessible to renters. This has given me some extra security that our personal belongings are not being accessed.”

-Thomas M. of Seattle, WA

3.  Water Sensor Alerts:  Alerting a subscriber if there’s a water leak or a flood in an area of the home where a sensor has been placed. For those in areas at-risk for flooding during storm season, or for those who don’t want to be “surprised,” by a hot water heater leak, these alerts can go a long way in preventing property damage, and in saving a lot of time and worry.


“I got a water sensor alert at work when the hot water heater burst. I was able to get home in time and prevent thousands of dollars in damage to our newly remodeled playroom. On the way home I even called the plumber who made it out the same day.”

-Danielle R. of Bellevue, WA

4. Cabinet/Drawer Security Alerts: Sensors can be installed on security systems and set up for drawers containing valuables, or cabinets containing items that could cause serious harm to children or strangers (medicine, firearms). A Real Time Alert indicating that one of these cabinets has been opened helps prevent both injury and property loss.

“ I often have contractors and dog walkers coming and going from the house; Real time alerts have helped ensure that our family’s valuables and personal items are safe and secure.”

-Maria R. of Cape May, NJ

5. Power Outage Alerts: These alerts help ensure residents are aware of a power outage in-advance of it impacting their wireless home security system, helping to prevent property loss due to crime.  Also, residents with older or younger relatives at home can ensure their family’s safety during a power outage in extreme weather or circumstances.

“My mother lives alone so I set up my alerts to send me a text message if her power has gone out. This way I know immediately when she might need an extra hand getting around safely.”

-Kim L. of Cherry Hill, NJ

Not only are Real Time alerts convenient, preventive measures to ensure home safety and security, but many home monitoring services mean price breaks on homeowner’s and renter’s insurance as well. 

 Visit our website to learn more, or email us at blog@myalarmcenter.com to share your own tips on leveraging real time alerts as part of your wireless home security and safety planning.

 

Tips to Keep Kids & Homes Safe This Halloween: October 2012

by Amy October 24, 2012

Halloween is a favorite time of year for us here at My Alarm Center Home Security Services, and we know it’s a favorite among our customers. 

At the end of a successful Halloween night, our kids are back home, glowing over their hit of a costume and comparing trick-or-treat bags stuffed to the brim.  Thanks to modern home security solutions from My Alarm Center, our homes are safe and nothing is missing – except for the candy we intended to give away, that is!

To ensure that’s the kind of night kids and parents experience once again this Halloween, the folks here at My Alarm Center have put together some tips to keep kids safe while out trick-or-treating in homes and neighborhoods, and to keep homes safe and personal property secure.

First, make sure to take advantage of tips posted by your local police department – which often list crime prevention recommendations specific to enjoying Halloween festivities in your area. For example, the Seattle Police Department lists a series of tips on their web site that includes recommendations like knowing your treater’s route for the evening, and making sure jack-o-lanterns and anything with an open flame is safely out of the way in areas where treaters might get crowded, to avoid a hazard.

The Philly Police Blog –  by the Philadelphia Police Department – published a great list this year aptly named “13 Commonsense Tips for Making Halloween Safe for Everyone.”  Tips include checking to make sure treaters’ masks aren’t obstructing vision, and even considering hosting or attending a Halloween party for those looking for an alternative to trick-or-treating.

Some areas –  like Bergen County and Passaic County in New Jersey – have been enforcing curfews, as reported here by CBS. Although not ideal, this helps ensure kids are safe in areas where crime has risen around this time of year, and makes sure kids are accompanied by a parent or guardian after dark.

For more tips, visit the National Crime Prevention Council’s web site this October, which just so happens to be National Crime Prevention Month!  Here, you can even find links to printable posters and games by crime fighting dog McGruff – a fun way for kids to learn how to stay safe this Halloween.

If everyone in your household is headed out this October 31st, then make sure the only spooky things worth mentioning are your costumes by taking a few small precautions to ensure your home is secure.

Oh, and one last tip…Have a great time and a happy Halloween!

-Your Friends at My Alarm Center

 

Storm Season: Impacts on Home Security Systems & Home Alarm Systems

by Amy September 18, 2012

As cleanup begins in areas affected by Hurricane Isaac recently, home-made signs like this one in Louisiana, featuring phrases like, “You loot we shoot,” remind us that weathering and recovering from a storm can mean a great deal more than property repair.

Storms frequently cause power outages for residents, and power outages often impact residential services like: TV, internet, phone (often VoIP service), and – in some cases – home alarm systems.  When faced with longer-term outages, residents without reliable wireless home security systems often become concerned about personal belongings and items their families have taken lifetimes to acquire, preserve, and pass-down through generations.

Whether or not a homeowner’s wireless home security system is impacted by a power outage can vary based on their alarm system and/or wireless home monitoring service. At My Alarm Center, we have long recommended that our customers operate on a cellular monitoring system.  This is in line with a recent executive plan published by the FCC’s ERIC (Emergency Response and Interoperability Center) group which outlines recommendations and goals for increased public safety and homeland security, emphasizing that “first responders should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.”

Operating on a dedicated cellular channel, cellular monitoring systems send wireless signals via a secure, encrypted transmission to central monitoring services in case of emergency.  When a power outage occurs, customers are protected by a cellular transmitter with backup battery power, allowing the alarm system to continue to operate during temporary power outages.  

Despite the fact that cellular monitoring remains the safest and most reliable option for home security service, many providers and customers still remain on older and less reliable systems.  This means homeowners’ access to home security monitoring services typically depends on the availability of traditional phone service, or Internet service.  For instance:

  • Alarm systems that rely on a hard-wired connection to a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) line are only as functional as the copper wire to which the system is connected; If the phone line is severed in a storm, alarm service is suspended until the phone line is physically repaired. In the aftermath of a storm the need for phone line repair services often exceed the resources available which leads to long periods of time without home security monitoring services.
  • Alarm systems that operate on VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol – i.e. Vonage and phone service offered as part of many service providers’ “triple-play” packages) are even more vulnerable; Just as phone lines can be cut or severed, Internet service can be interrupted in a variety of ways, cutting-off access to the alarm system until internet service is restored.

For example, in Massachusetts recently, a fire damaged Verizon infrastructure, interrupting both phone and Internet service in 40 towns.  Not only was public safety threatened, but the security systems for homes and businesses was impacted, as one local business-owner outlined when he discussed his alarm system outage with the Eagle Tribune:

“…The phone and Internet outage also disrupted business security system services. Julio Jansen, owner of Lawrence Staffing Services on Merrimack Street in Lawrence, said yesterday his office was broken into. The building’s local alarm went off, but because phone and Internet service was down, the alarm company, ADT, was not notified and did not contact Lawrence Police.

‘The panic alarm sounded because we tested it this morning, but ADT wasn’t contacted,” Jansen said…”

Had Mr.Jansen subscribed to an alarm system that was based on cellular monitoring with backup battery power, it’s likely his story would have been different.

BBB companies like My Alarm Center who are partnered with Alarm.com, leader in advancing technology and service for alarm service customers, frequently consider the impacts of unexpected events and emergencies on alarm service, as outlined in a recent article entitled, “Will Technology Stand Up to the Storm?” by Bridget Carey of Alarm.com.

The BBB business My Alarm Center strives to provide a system that’s at the forefront of reliability, interactive services that increase convenience for users, and customer service that encourages home security best practices for residents and their families.  We’d love to hear from you, if you’ve experienced unexpected issues resulting from a storm or disaster event that impacted the security of your home.  Email us at blog@myalarmcenter.com to share your story, and help us continue to provide and improve home security and home automation services for residents like you.

-Your friends at My Alarm Center

Putting The “Active” In Interactive Home Automation Services

by Amy August 17, 2012

In a day and age where grandparents have Facebook accounts, and babies are using iPads (and of course where people are blogging about babies using iPads), it’s no surprise that companies are making usability a top priority when designing new security systems and devices for today’s consumer.

We’ve become accustomed to technology and mobile devices enabling a more active approach to everything from planning travel to managing personal finances to discovering new music.  Why shouldn’t we expect the same in home security systems and home monitoring services? Many of the latest offerings in home security are new products and services that allow just that; Helping customers to proactively manage not only their alarm systems, but their entire residence from the web or from any web enabled smartphone.

At My Alarm Center, we’ve noticed how innovators in the home security system industry tend to take interactive home monitoring several steps further than simply putting out an iPhone app and calling it a day.  They’re taking advantage of what leading behavioral scientists like BJ Fogg and others at Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab are proving around the world: Technology can persuade people to change their every day behaviors!

For instance, in a June article by Alarm.com, the author points out there was a time not long ago where homeowners frequently left house alarm systems disarmed because the interfaces and the wireless home security systems themselves were too complicated.  Top home security system providers today are helping people to change that type of behavior, by developing more intuitive alarm systems and designing mobile interfaces that make home security and home automation easier-to-use and more valuable to the consumer.

As customers find the experience more rewarding – in the form of peace of mind, in catching potential extreme damage caused from storms or leaks, in seeing lower energy bills each month as a result of on demand remote thermostat control and more – they’re likely to use the wireless security system more frequently.

…And people who use their home alarm system properly and more frequently are likely to be… You guessed it – safer .

When benefits like these at the individual level are realized and coupled with projected smartphone user trends at a national level, the potential for consumers to take advantage of truly intuitive home management is astounding: As the research firm In-Stat predicts, within five years, more than 200 million people in the U.S. will own a smartphone or tablet – many of whom will insist on a reliable mobile-to-home connection.

While projected smartphone adoption rates and predicted consumer preferences are hypothetical, it’s still exciting to think about how interactive home monitoring fits into the grand scheme of technology in our daily lives.  For example, what will we do on our morning commute when we don’t have to wonder if we left the iron on, or the front door unlocked?

Have interactive home monitoring services made your life easier? The team at My Alarm Center would love to know how! Email us at info@myalarmcenter.com – and you might be featured in our next blog post!

Looking forward to sharing more of what’s next in proactive home security services, safety, and home automation!

-Your Friends at My Alarm Center

Wireless Home Security System Tips & Best Practices: Protect Your Home During Summer Vacation

by Amy July 31, 2012

As excitement builds among millions of us preparing to head off for summer vacation, opportunistic intruders are likely hatching plans of their own – targeting empty homes each year for burglary, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

At My Alarm Center Home Security Services, we encourage our customers to adopt a comprehensive home security strategy – one that extends beyond home monitoring and home alarms.  This is especially critical during July and August, the months with the highest rates of burglaries (about a 10% increase over other times of the year), according to FBI crime statistics.

While newer home security services and offerings like wireless home security, interactive monitoring and remote home automation are excellent tools to help keep potential intruders at bay, it’s quite possible to deter simply by making it “look” like you’re at home.

No, you don’t have to make like Macauley Culkin’s character in Home Alone and stage a faux dance party in your living room while you’re away at the beach.  Simple measures like programming outdoor lighting to activate at dusk daily, and keeping landscaping maintained while you’re away can be very effective.

Taking precautions like these, and other Vacation Safety Tips can help influence whether or not your home is targeted in the first place.  Should intruders persist, then home security companies, systems, services, and organizations like My Alarm Center Home Security Services are your best bet to stop criminals in their tracks.

Looking forward to helping ensure your summer vacation ends as happily as it began.

-Your Friends at My Alarm Center

Welcome To The My Alarm Center Home Security Blog

by Amy July 28, 2012

Welcome to the My Alarm Center home security blog, where we’ll share tips, best practices, and news to help you stay well-informed on the latest in home security solutions, monitoring services, and home automation systems.  

We’re thrilled to publish our first post, in the coming days, highlighting safety tips to keep your home secure while away on vacation.

Please stop by again! We’ll be sharing more tips and new developments in home security service soon.

 -Your Friends at My Alarm Center