ILLUSTRATION BY JONAN EVERETT
If you don’t have any sort of home security or alarm system set up, you are far from alone. According to a 2018 report, only 15 percent of U.S. homes have some sort of security system in place.
I don’t tell you this to make you feel insecure. But if you haven’t thought about getting a security system, it’s probably because it simply never occurred to you. Especially if you rent, you might consider it a landlord’s responsibility to protect your home.
What Are Home Security Systems?
The name says a lot: A home security system secures your home and belongings. Many companies offer home security systems, and the types of alarms and systems available vary widely.
There was a property crime every 3.9 seconds in the United States in 2015, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting website. The site defines property crimes as “the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.” The burglary statistic for 2015 is one burglary every 20 seconds.
The Pros of Home Security Systems
Are home security systems necessary? The answer, of course, depends on who you ask.
Say you have a young child, work from home, and collect antiques. Your house is not only the home you’re raising your child in, but it’s also the place in which you run your business and keep valuable items. For someone in this situation, a home alarm system might be a necessity. It provides a layer of protection for both the person as well as the business she runs out of her house.
Or say that your partner often travels for work, and you’re home alone for days or weeks at a time. In such a case, you might want a home security system to make you feel safe. This was situation for Sylvia. “My husband used to travel for work, sometimes for weeks at a time,” she says. “He didn't like that I was at home alone without a security system.”
Because Sylvia would often be home on her own, she and her husband decided that a home security system was a necessary investment.
Sylvia signed onto a plan that came with a feature for medical emergencies. Her security system offered a way for a homeowner to contact 911 if there was a need to.
“I had a medical emergency back in early 2010, and I ended up in the ER for two days,” she says. “My husband was randomly at home that day, but normally he would have been working out of town. So when we got the security system, he upgraded it for the feature that gives you a key fob with a button to help contact 911 for an ambulance.”
For the disabled, chronically ill people, or anyone who lives alone and worries about a medical emergency, a security system could literally be a lifeline to the outside world.
The Cons of Home Security Systems
Renters in particular might be averse to getting a home security system. In some apartment complexes, it might be redundant.
For example, Codi — a renter in Austin, Texas — doesn’t have a security system for her apartment. “I rent at a complex that has a preinstalled security system, but I don’t use it or have any idea of the cost,” she says.
Codi explains that her aversion to home security “is a deliberate intention to have faith in humanity and not live in fear or make financial decisions based on it. I had an experience with an attempted home invasion when I was young. Since then, I’ve gone through some things that convinced me not to be overly cautious or governed by fear. I moved to Austin from a ‘don’t even have to lock your doors’ type of neighborhood, and I haven’t seen or experienced anything here that has made me fearful or worried.”
Angela, a single woman and homeowner who also lives in Austin and doesn’t have a security system, is not as trusting as Codi. When asked to explain her home setup, Angela says, “I have one indoor camera that I can view at any time from an app. I intend to add two or three outdoor cameras and another indoor camera. I also plan to install a security alarm, but for now the cameras seem sufficient. They cost $199 apiece, and the recording costs $10 a month. As a single woman, it gives me a sense of relief — if anything does happen, I have video of it — plus a little bit of enjoyment, because I can see what my dog is up to during the day.”
Pros and Cons of Home Security Systems: The Bottom Line
Your need for a home security system will depend on your desire to feel safe and protected in your home. You may find that having one makes you feel safer. But you may also find that one just doesn’t fit in your budget.