A home security system is pretty much standard equipment in most modern homes these days. We've become accustomed to these wonders of technology and take comfort in the peace of mind they give us. We feel confident whenever we leave our homes that should, God forbid, an intruder break down the door, the bulgur alarm will sound and the police will immediately respond in force, sirens blaring and guns drawn. Clearly, everyone needs to have a security system in their home. If you don't have a home surveillance system already installed in your house there are any number of alarm companies that will be glad to install an alarm system for you and at a very reasonable price; just as long as you sign a contract for long term monitoring. There's a cheaper way however. You can instead install a wireless home security system yourself, which is not very difficult to do, and then you can pass on the alarm system monitoring. Meanwhile if you already have a home surveillance system installed in your house, you can opt to cancel your home security monitoring service and cut that expense out of your monthly budget.
At first this idea may sound ridiculous. What's the point of having a home surveillance system if you don't have it monitored? This is definitely the line any alarm company or even alarm seller who also sells the monitoring will tell you. In fact, when I bought a wireless home security system a few years ago and told the store that I didn't want to subscribe to system monitoring, they were at first incredulous and then downright rude. They basically told me in a huff to take my alarm and leave and expect no more help from them. This made it clear to me straightaway that the real money for alarm companies and even alarm retailers is not to be had in the equipment, but the monthly monitoring. I can hardly fault them for this, but, they have their interests and I have mine.
So why pass on what seems to be an essential service (and bill) these days? It’s because of what you actually get, and don't get, from the service. Consider what actually happens whenever your home security system alarm is tripped. The first thing that happens is that it sends an indication of the alarm over the phone to the alarm monitoring respond center, which is most likely located in a city far away from yours. (Even if a local alarm store sells you this service the respond center for the service itself is most likely in another city.) There, an operator at a computer terminal, who is likely bored from the tedium of their job and not quite on the edge of their seat with concern for your house like those ads on TV, will follow through on a standard protocol. They will call your home number and see if you or anyone else answers who can give a password and indicate if the alarm was set off by accident. This will take a minute or so if no one is home. If they can't reach you then they will call someone else whose number you provided, often a neighbor, to see if they can figure anything out about the nature of the alarm or if you’re at home. This might take 5 minutes, depending on how close such a neighbor might be and how long it takes them to look at your house to figure out if something's happening. If no one near your home can explain the nature of the alarm, the alarm company will then contact your local police and report the alarm. And that's it, the work of the alarm company does not go beyond this. They can do nothing to help you other than call the police.
Fine, you may think, at least help will be on the way and the burglary will have been thwarted. Well, maybe not. At least 5 minutes has probably gone by between the first shrieks of your alarm and the call placed from your alarm company to your police department. But don't expect the police to drop everything and come running to your house to catch the bad guys before they can get away. Between 94% and 99% of home security system alarms that police receive end up being false (www.freakonomics.com). Yet these false alarms make up a significant number of their calls. The police know this, and consequently, home surveillance alarms receive their lowest priority. So unfortunately, they probably won't be very quick to respond to your house alarm. Times may vary, depending on how well staffed the police department is in your town and how busy they are at the moment. A response time of at least half and hour is common.
Put all of this together now and you will see that from the time your alarm first sounded to the time law enforcement actually arrives at your doorstop will likely be longer than 30 minutes.
No matter, you may think, at least the burglary will have been avoided and the intruder will have run away in panic, leaving your home and belongings safe and sound apart from a broken lock or smashed window. True, but if so, then the thief would have run away just as quickly without the monitoring service, after all, the thief has no way of knowing whether or not your home surveillance system is hooked up to an alarm company. Furthermore, even if he does know your alarm system is connected to the grid, he may also know what kind of time period he has to rob your house before law enforcement arrives. Most home invaders take a smash 'n grab approach anyway so if the thief is so inclined he could easily rummage around for a few minutes and grab some valuables. Furthermore, there are also clever thieves today who manage to break into a house without even tripping the alarm (such happened to a neighbor of mine only a few weeks ago).
When you think all of this through, paying $20 or $25 a month for an alarm company somewhere to call the police for you in case your alarm system is tripped doesn't make a lot of sense. That's not to say that a home surveillance system itself isn't a good idea, but chances are the sounding of the alarm will be all that is needed to tell the thief he'd better not hang around to load up a moving truck with your furniture. But if he is inclined to grab some jewelry or other valuables lying around, no alarm is going to stop him.
Having said all this however, it must be acknowledged that home security monitoring isn't a bad idea or service. It can give you a certain peace of mind and in some cases, save the day. There are also some smaller home security monitoring services that involve local, private security guards who respond quickly to all alarms, which is clearly a better way to go. For most of us however, the blaring alarm and included bluff of an unmonitored home surveillance system is all that is needed to keep the bad guys away.