How to protect your home for less than $100
Manchester and surrounding communities have been plagued by a spike in home burglaries in recent months, keeping police busy and residents on edge.
But common sense and a few easy-to-install devices can help protect your home and family from intruders without costing a fortune, according to Officer Paul Rondeau, a crime prevention specialist at the Manchester Police Department.
Wireless window and door alarms, vibration detectors for sliding-glass doors, hotel-style door guards and motion-detection outdoor lights - all available at area retailers - can discourage burglars or alert residents if someone does try to get in.
Rondeau recently purchased all you'd need to protect an average home for just under $100.
For instance, there's a simple device available for about $10 that allows you to keep a window open a few inches but that triggers an audible alarm if someone tries to open it wider.
A motion-activated alarm with strobe light will cost about $15, while a motion-activated light that screws into an outdoor fixture will run about $20, he said.
A few simple precautions, such as keeping ladders locked and out of sight (so burglars can't use them to gain access to upper windows), locking car doors and keeping bushes trimmed (to eliminate hiding places), can go a long way as well, Rondeau said.
One of his favorite tips: Install shades in your garage and shed windows. "They're looking to see if you're home," he said. "No car? Nobody home."
And don't put large boxes that contained expensive items such as TVs on the curb for trash pickup. "That's a billboard telling the whole neighborhood you just bought a new TV," he said. Instead, he suggests cutting the cardboard into smaller pieces to go out with the recycling.
And that garage-door remote you keep on your car's visor? "Mount it with Velcro under the dash, out of sight." Otherwise, a burglar could use it to gain access to the garage and, quite possibly, that inside house door you always keep unlocked.
Geoffrey Davis is an owner of Electronic Security Protection Inc. in Manchester, which has been in the security-alarm business for 24 years.
He and two partners just launched a new venture, homQu, selling do-it-yourself wireless systems from a kiosk at the Mall of New Hampshire.
"We've only been up and running in there since Tuesday, and we've had a great response," Davis said.
A basic security package from homQu starts at $495 plus a $29 monthly contract, Davis said. Customers can add other home-automation services that let them know when their kids get home from school, turn on the heat or lights from their smartphone, or even take a photo of an intruder who's tripped the alarm.
And since the new security systems rely on cellphones, cutting a home's phone lines won't disable the system as it used to, Davis said.
Meanwhile, don't make it easy for burglars to figure out when you won't be home, experts advise.
"I think it's important to make your house look lived in, like someone's home," Davis said.
That's why he likes the new home-automation systems that turn lights on from a smartphone.
Rondeau has another piece of advice: "Don't announce on Facebook that you're going on vacation." That goes for the kids, as well, he said.
Still, Davis said he understands not everyone can afford a home security system.
He agreed with Rondeau that homeowners can do a lot to protect themselves with the technology available today.
"Anything is better than nothing," he said. "And a burglar does not like a lot of noise and a lot of attention. So if you can put some things on your windows that are going to make noise if somebody opens them, absolutely that's better than nothing."
Davis said it's not just city dwellers who need to think about home security. "I live in a small town, and people think because they live in a small town that they don't have anything to worry about.
"You may have less of it, but you still have the same kinds of things. If you talk to most small-town police chiefs, one of the two or three things they get the most calls about is burglaries," he said.
"You need to be aware."