Where Home Security Falls Short

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November 17, 2005
A home alarm system is a good way to protect your family. But where you live could affect the level of your safety. In a special assignment, News 12 is on your side to explain how flaws in the system mean a burglar can get in and out of your home before police ever arrive.

It takes intruders five to ten minutes to break in. But it can take up to forty-five minutes for police to arrive. So why the delay? Home security systems are monitored in different towns and often different states than your home. And some counties are quicker to respond than others.

Burglars broke into more than 5,400 homes last year in Aiken, Richmond and Columbia Counties. Carlton Wilson doesn’t want to be part of that statistic. So he has an alarm system to keep his wife and two children safe.

“Here you are in the middle of the night, you wake up, your husband is not there. And you wonder, is somebody in the house?” Wilson said.

He knows the facts, because he installs systems for a living.

Captain Clay Smith and the Columbia County police respond to 10 alarms every day. Most of them are in the daytime because many people are at work. They don’t always rely on the alarm companies command centers because they can be slow to call.

“A lot of times we get a call from the neighbors before we get a call from the alarm company. And we’ll have a car at the scene prior to the alarm company calling us,” Capt. Smith said.

Systems typically have a master control panel with door and window sensors, motion detectors, and a keypad. If the alarm goes off, the security company calls. If no one answers, the police are notified. But roughly ninety percent of the calls they get are false. This number goes up during storms and some weekends.

When police arrive, they should check doors, windows and possibly enter the house if they can find the owner’s designated key holder.

General Manager Dedric Badua from American Guardian Security Systems says response times and the thoroughness of the search depends on who shows up.

“If an intruder comes in with the system activated, the siren goes off immediately. Typically, no one sticks around for the siren,” Badua said.

Many builders install screws that are between a half-inch to an inch and a half into the deadbolt. But if screws of this size are not strong enough, and if an intruder tried to kick the door in, the entire frame would come off. So, some security companies recommend a three-inch screw.

Some other problems are broken glass and motion sensors do not always come standard, so intruders can get in by breaking the window. That’s a big worry for Carlton Wilson.

“The room where the parents are is way on this side of the house and the children’s rooms are on the other side of the house,” Wilson said.

Families like his depend on the police to get there quick so they don’t become another statistic.

Richmond County leads in residential burglaries with close to 4,500 last year. Aiken County came in next with around 900 and Columbia County had a little over 250.

Columbia County and Aiken County have an average response time of about four minutes. Richmond County did not give an average number, but an officer said it depends on what is going on, and sometimes it takes around fifteen minutes.