Do Home Security Systems Deter Crime?

Most people want their homes to be as safe as possible — but don’t want to waste money on safety improvements that don’t actually make a difference. This is especially true when it comes to paying for security systems, which can have both hefty upfront fees and ongoing monitoring fees.

Before you shell out the cash to buy a home security system, it’s natural to wonder: do home security systems actually deter crime? The good news is, there’s data to show that security systems do indeed make a difference and reduce the chances of burglars coming into your home.

Burglary risks in the United States

While the risks of a break-in vary based on where you live, the reality is that everyone is at risk in the United States. In fact, according to statistics from 2018, an estimated three out of four homes in the U.S. will be broken into sometime over the next 20 years.

While this may seem as though it’s a high percentage of homes, the sad fact is that the majority of crimes — 77% — are property crimes. And, when break-ins happen, they almost always happen to residential buildings, as 88% of all burglaries are residential in nature. Sadly, apartment dwellers are actually at the biggest risk of falling victim to a property crime, but homeowners too face a significant chance of a break-in.

Many of these burglaries — 87% — go unsolved, largely because of a lack of physical evidence or because there are no witnesses. An unsolved burglary can not only leave you with lost possessions that you never recover, but it can also destroy your peace-of-mind and your feelings of safety in your home.

Reducing the risk is worth the effort, and the data is clear that security systems do just that.

Cameras deter burglars

Cameras are a common feature on alarm systems, and are a major deterrent to criminals. In fact, in one study conducted by Co-op insurance, former burglars who were interviewed by the insurer cited cameras and barking dogs as two of the leading reasons they’d opt out of trying to break into a home.

Close to half of those interviewed for this study indicated most thieves were opportunists who would avoid break-ins in situations most likely to attract attention. Cameras, of course, can also help police catch burglars by capturing their image so cameras would significantly increase the likelihood the burglar would be caught and convicted. That’s the last thing any would-be criminal wants. (Check out our advice on the best spots to place your security cameras.)

Alarms deter burglars

Alarm systems have also been demonstrated as a proven deterrent likely to make burglars reluctant to attempt a break-in. In fact, when the University of North Carolina at Charlotte conducted a comprehensive study and interviewed more than 400 incarcerated individuals who’d been imprisoned for burglary, 60% of those interviewed said they would look for an alarm before attempting to rob a home. Of those who indicated they’d look for an alarm, the majority said they’d move along to a different target if they spotted one.

Alarm systems emit loud noises that alert neighbors and increase the chances of an intervention. The police are also notified almost immediately when a home has a monitored alarm system. Burglars know the threat of being caught is substantially higher when a home has an alarm and opt to steer clear because of it.

Even security system signs can deter burglars

Security systems protect your home in a number of ways, and one of those ways is to alert would-be thieves to the existence of an alarm. This is usually done through yard signs and stickers on the home indicating the house is protected by a security system.

These yard signs serve as an important deterrent in-and-of-themselves. In fact, in one study of more than 400 incarcerated burglars, security signs were the ninth most considered security measure among thieves deciding whether a dwelling was a good target for a break-in.

However, researchers warned against simply buying signs and not installing an actual alarm system. While security system signs prevent some break-ins, many thieves will also approach the home to look for other indicators of a security system, such as cameras. You don’t want to take a chance the signs won’t be enough and a thief will enter anyway, so be sure you have both a functional alarm system as well as the signs alerting would-be burglars to its presence.

The data is conclusive: Home security systems do deter criminals

The data is clear on this — burglars don’t like to break into homes with alarms. So, while you may be hesitant to spend the money for a security system, the peace-of-mind and increased safety is worth the price.

Not only that, but homeowners insurers also recognize that alarm systems make break-ins less likely to occur — so many give you a discount for installing home security. This can help defray the cost of the alarm while providing further proof that alarms work. After all, insurers are trained at assessing risk, and they wouldn’t offer discounts if security systems didn’t make a difference.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.

Officer James Banta

Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.