So Basically Home Alarms are Worthless


The alleged burglar enters around minute 1:49 on this video. A reader sends from Stronghold and says it took place October 2nd at 1:30pm and stolen was “Jewelry, passports, GoPro. And stole the camera that was taping him!!”

75 Comment

  • What company is your alarm set up with?

  • I’d like to know what company too. We’ve had two false alarms and police were there within minutes.

  • As long as a burglar isn’t spooked by the noise and can get in and out in five minutes or less, alarms are pretty useless.

    I got mine installed because I got held up at gunpoint in my bed about 5AM one grim morning and I figure the system will prevent the sort of long-ish term ordeal I went through, especially if there are others in the house besides myself. Or maybe give me time to get out the window. (I keep meaning to to institute phase II of the home protection project, but am not sure where to pick up a short-barreled 12-guage legally).

    After the home invasion, I’m not too concerned about losing a laptop, most of the jewelry is gone and and I figure he wont have time to carry out the bulk items that actually are worth more than my laptop.

    • “Held up at gunpoint in my bed about 5am” OMG!!! I am so sorry to hear that. How terrible, I don’t know if I could recover from that.

    • God, that is HORRIFYING! What happened after he woke you up?

      • You know, the usual — he made me tell him where my wallet was (in my jeans, on the bathroom floor), yelled at me to get the fuck out of bed and get my wife’s jewelry was and wouldn’t let me put my clothes on while I rummaged through the fireplace to get it — so I’m in the dark naked with a man pointing a pistol at me. Yelled at me a lot not to look at him. Surreal thing was that it was three days after my wife’s funeral, so I wavered between “this can’t really be happening” and “it would be bad for the kids if I got myself murdered.”

        • Oh Geez, I am so sorry, Irving Streete! I never realized this. That is really awful.

        • That makes it particularly awful. So sorry to hear about this.

          • SERIOUSLY!!! This is soooo terrible. I did not know your wife passed away, so sorry to hear about this. Did they at least catch the guy (and I hope he is in jail right now)?!

          • Never caught him. I almost didn’t report it, I wasn’t in the mood.

        • ugh, home invasion – my worst fear. Can’t even imagine it so soon after losing a loved one. maybe almost a good thing you were still numb from that? Probably not but trying to brightside here.

      • Jesus, man. I’m so sorry, that is beyond awful.

        • not sure why that ended up there, it was supposed to be under Irving Streete’s account of the robbery he went through.

    • That is terrible, especially considering the timing. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

    • I’m so sorry for the loss of your wife.

      I’m so sorry you had to deal with a home invasion. I’m glad you’re here to talk about it.

      Drive down to NC with cash. Any place off of 95 or 85 will do.

  • This is crazy! Glad I have a dog, I hope that she is enough to deter an intruder.

    • Emmaleigh504

      My parent’s used to have the most scaredy-cat dog ever and she deterred some robbers. They even barricaded her in her room. It was kind of funny b/c we were following the path the robbers took and got to my room and it just stopped. That’s where they saw the dog and barricaded the door. They were also morons b/c they only stole the non-alcoholic beer.

  • A home alarm is not worthless if it’s being monitored by a security company. The alarm goes off; if it’s not reset within a certain period of time, the alarm company calls; if no one answers or the person who answers doesn’t know the code, the police get dispatched.
    A lot of people are buying alarm systems they install and monitor themselves. If you are doing your own monitoring, then it’s on you to get to your house or get the police to your house after the alarm goes off. There was probably a self-monitored alarm system in this place.

    Even in this case, the alarm system was useful because there is a crystal clear picture of the guy who broke into the house.

    • This is misrepresentative at best. Many monitored alarm services have terrible reputations. Many self-set up systems are great. Do your homework and find a good one.

  • Also wondering which alarm system they have. Alarms only go so far, but if nothing else I’m hoping to prevent being surprised by an unwanted visitor in the middle of the night.

  • When the detectives came over to interview us after our neighbor’s break in (couple weeks ago, roommate’s car was stolen, up on Varnum), they asked if we had an alarm system. We said yes. They said, “That’s good. But get some cameras. Alarms are useless against professional burglars who know they can get in and out with whatever they find as long as they do it in under 10 minutes.” Uh, thanks for the honesty, detective. But that didn’t really make me feel that great after our neighbors were burgled…

    • I would argue that an alarm is useful even if all it does is limit the amount of time a professional burglar spends in your house or apartment. I would rather a burglar feel compelled to get out of my house in 10 minutes than think he or she can spend hours going through the place.

    • Just couple days ago- I responded to an ad on CL about someone looking to rent a room. After sending pics of the place etc and back and forth for few emails answering questions, the still anonymous person- proceed to ask me for my cross streets and whether or not my place has an alarm. I responded saying that I am happy to discuss further details, but not anonymously. He responded saying that I should be willing to divulge that information to a potential candidate for the room blah blah blah and was pretty much offended. I responded saying thanks, but I’m not interested in renting a room to someone who can’t understand why I won’t answer those questions to some random anonymous person.

      • WOW — yes, that’s dangerous. Way to go, recognizing that. Many people wouldn’t have and that’s how bad things happen.

        • Didn’t ask about an alarm, but I had someone asking for the exact location without telling me much of anything. I don’t share that info until we’ve set up a meeting, and I know enough to check you out online.

          • Yup, yup, and yup. My rentals are all condos, and I still don’t even give the address until we have a meeting confirmed. If they ask me about the location, I tell them that the Craigslist map is pretty close and will work if they want to look up crime stats or poke around on Google street view or some such. Even when setting up a meeting, I don’t give the unit number, just the address, and tell them I’ll meet them at the front door. I also send a request for screening (I use an online credit/criminal background/judgements check service) before they even come. Those who are serious will fill out the application before even showing up…or at least fill in their info (I get a notification that they’ve started the process) and wait until they see the place in person before “confirming” their application. All my rentals *do* have security systems, and I have had some people drop off the face of the earth after asking (among other questions) to confirm that there’s a security system available…

  • We had a police officer tell us the exact same thing. We were moving in when he was driving by. So he stopped his car to say hello and introduce himself. He told us he recommends that we put bars on the window (they had been removed during the reno) and get a camera because our alarm would be useless against bulgars. Most know to grab the expensive stuff and run before the cops come. The alarm does give me comfort since I am home alone most nights while my husband is at work.

    • What a way to move into a new neighborhood: You are literally unpacking when a person (being helpful, nonetheless) offers warnings about crime precautions!

  • For those who have been burglarized, can you mention what the point of entry was and if you had bars/security door there? My impression is that the most common scenario is that the perp knocks on the front door (often during the work day) and when there is no answer, will go around to the back of a house, and bust open a back door (preferably basement so he is less likely to be seen from the alley). Assuming you are in a typical DC row house, does that jive with your own experience? Thanks!

    • Yeah probably the case for some of them, but what about the homes that have been converted to basement apartments with NO interior staircase?

    • That’s essentially what happened at my place (though I’m not sure whether they knocked on the front door first). They busted in our basement door (destroying the door and its frame). Like other posters have said, out alarm didn’t stop them from coming in the house, but it likely limited the amount of time they spent inside stealing stuff.

    • saf

      Once it happened that way. Once they kicked the front door in. Once they reached through the mail slot and unlocked the door. Once they kicked the back upstairs door in.

      Now we have an alarm. We’ve had attempts since then, but nobody has gotten in.

      Except for that time there was a bird in the basement that we think fell down the chimney.

    • Burglars broke in 2 weeks after I bought my place through the basement door in broad daylight. My alarm and psycho bulldog probably scared them off. Subsequently put bars on all the basement windows and bought two firearms.

    • This is why I put door armor on all my doors. Prevents kick ins.

      • Did you have to get EZ armor professionally installed? I ordered it, but I couldn’t install it (properly because there was not enough clearance. any way, if you have a recommendation for a professional to install it, could you let me know.

    • We were broken into in Hill East at 4pm. The intruders kicked in a back basement window (no bars). They got a junky laptop, a flat screen TV and a mountain bike. They did not get the “good” laptop because we hide it whenever we leave the house. I found my bike locked up in another part of the city a year later. I got the bike back then.

  • Alarms, window bars, security doors, cameras–these are all deterrents and not guaranteed security measures. I have always tried to make my house a pain in the ass for a criminal to get into on the theory that he/she will go elsewhere. So far so good. As others have said, an alarm is most useful if connected to a monitoring service that will call the cops for you.

  • As someone who was broken into about a year ago, I installed cameras around my house as well as on the inside. I would also recommend reinforcing your door frame with something like this I put one on my back door and also am putting them on my other doors.

  • Was OP self-monitoring and didn’t call the cops? Has anyone had a negative experience with self-monitoring? I don’t understand how, if you have your phone with you at all times and you’ve got it set up to alert you when sensors are tripped how it would be less superior to a company monitoring?

    • Because the company alerts the police VERY quickly during (?) or after the phone call. Seriously, it’s like $5 to have the company monitoring so $10 vs. $15 with Simplisafe. It’s worth it to me. I mean in the time I got the call from the company, we got a Lyft home (a little over a mile away) and the police were already out of their cars and on our back porch (long walk from where they were parked) shining the flashlight around. I don’t think you’ll get as fast of a response with self-monitoring. Granted it was our neighborhood beat cops so they might have been nearby, but still.

    • HaileUnlikely

      If I am home and an intruder breaks in, I’d rather have the call to police occur automatically than hope I can get to my phone and call 911 myself without getting attacked first.
      I do not actually have an alarm system, but if I were to get one, it would be more to help me in a home invasion scenario than to protect my stuff when I’m away, thus the self-monitoring would be virtually worthless to me.

    • Because you’re out of the country, or at the theater, or a noisy restaurant, or sleeping, or swimming, or at a funeral, etc. I am not willing to be on call 24 hours a day to save ten bucks a month.

    • Everyone who lives in my house travels a lot for work, often to different time zones. I do not want to rely on wifi in Zambia to alert me that someone is breaking in to my house, nor do I wish to be awoken at 3 am in Myanmar due to a day-time break-in in DC. And what if I’m on a 17 hour flight while someone tries to break in? Or what if I’m in DC, but at the dentist or on an interminable conference call?

      I don’t have a security system at all, I’ve owned my house for nearly 10 years and have had no break-ins nor any attempts to my knowledge. But if i were to purchase an obviously flipped home (ie a house that says to the casual passerby–inhabitants have money) I’d go with monitoring over having to worry about it myself.

    • The only benefit of a self-monitored system that I can think of is saving a few dollars per month by not having to pay for monitoring. It’s your call as to whether the savings is significant enough for you to warrant taking on the responsibility and risk of paying attention to your phone to catch alerts in a timely manner.
      I believe that my home insurance premiums – fire and theft – are lower because I have a monitored alarm system. Whether the premiums are significantly lower, I can’t say.

  • orderedchaos

    That’s a dangerously stupid headline, and surprising for PoP.
    A properly monitored alarm system can save lives and deter (not prevent) thieves. Quick responses are the norm for reputable alarm companies, not to mention that if you’re home asleep the shrieking alarm would wake you and alert you to danger.

  • Aglets

    aside from a chain-latch on a door, does anyone have a recommendation for a way to alarm/protect your apartment?

    I live in an large, older, (80-ish years) building on Capitol Hill. A few years ago, I came home to find someone took a screw driver and popped out the tumbler to my deadbolt which thankfully held and then you could see pry marks along the door frame where they tried to just pry the door open. They didn’t get in, but man was it fun trying to explain to the police/maintence that it wasn’t a matter of being locked out. THERE WAS NO LOCK. Someone was arrested breaking into the houses on Pickford using a screwdriver the next week so i’m guessing it was that jamoke, but this weekend a very very drunk neighbor somehow got my door open at 3:45 am thinking it was her apartment.

    I went out the next day and bought a chain latch but i’m wondering if i should get something that makes noise when someone enters my apartment. She had a dog that woke me up which confused the shit out of me. I sat up in bed and said “WTF. I don’t own a dog…..”

    • HaileUnlikely

      See link above for door armor. Also, deadbolts vary immensely in quality. For about $100 you can get one from a locksmith that nobody is going to pop out with a screwdriver or get into by accident while drunk. They aren’t literally invincible, but would take significant burglary skill and tools far more specialized than a screwdriver to defeat.

    • A chain latch is not going to do much to deter a professional.

  • Luckily I haven’t experienced a breakin in DC, but did have one living in Ga. We had the monitoring system, and it was useless. Our (albeit, crated) dogs are what scared the (probably teenaged) burglars away.
    Irving Streete, so sorry for your ordeal.

  • From what I can tell, this particular alarm system wasn’t that loud or obnoxious, and seemed to shut off the audible alarm after about a minute and a half. This is actually a frustration I had when shopping for alarm systems…I wanted something EXTREMELY obnoxious that wouldn’t shut off for a long time. After much searching, I ended up installing a hybrid system. I have fairly standard ADT security system that sounds an alarm and can dispatch the police on the doors and windows. I ALSO have a small x10 system with sensors on doors and windows and motion detectors that will sound an INSANE alarm, flash lights, and even has outdoor motion sensors that sound a chime near vulnerable doors and windows to let anyone who approaches/gets in know that they’re noticed. I’ve never set off the ADT, but once accidentally set off the x10 (I thought I armed it in “home” mode, where only the door and window sensors will trigger, but had actually armed it in “away” mode, where setting foot in my living room would set it off…and then went to get a glass of water)…it was TERRIBLE. While it didn’t call the police (x10 is self-monitored, if you even set that up), it was SCREAMING ear-piercing alarms at me and flashing lamps all over my house. A neighbor called to make sure everything was okay, even though I dove for the control panel and shut it off within about 30 seconds. Bonus, that alarm sounds for *10 minutes* if it’s not silenced with a code or remote. It was only a one-time $150 more to add the extra sensors/detectors with the crazy loud alarm and lamp controls, and since you can set it up yourself however you want it, I actually have that system set up for both closed and open window positions on the second floor, so I can leave the windows open when the weather is nice and still be alerted if someone tries to move them. Also extra bonus, all the lamp controls have timer capabilities, so I can set my lamps to turn on and off automatically if I want them to (and I do, generally, use this feature…I make my living room floor lamp turn on around 6 PM and off around Midnight, the bedroom lamp turn on around 9 PM and off at, still, Midnight, the hall light come on around 5 PM and off at 10 PM…not only good for security when you’re away, but a good way to never leave your lamp on when you go to bed/never have to enter a dark house).

    • Should clarify…we have the ADT on *most* of the upstairs windows. We had them leave it off a few so that we can leave some open at night in nice weather, and rely on the x10 if someone *really* wants to try for the “hard” windows. If someone kicks in a door while we’re home, alarm is triggered and police are called. If someone scales to the second floor on a sheer wall, we’ll know if they move the window (x10 sensors are set for leaving the window open about 8″…they’d have to move it to get in), but have to call the police ourselves…

  • Regarding security cameras, I’ve thought about getting one, but also wonder what’s the point? Most of the ones sold are those that monitor the inside of your home. It’s not a deterrent at that point. If you actually capture the burglar on film, you’ve already got a major problem since they’re already in the home stealing stuff. Do people actually get their stuff back because they captured the thief on video? I guess I’m not convinced they’ll actually ever catch the guy, and I’ll be stuck with a worthless camera and video capture of my robber.

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