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Science Shows Alarm Systems Perform

A new AIREF-endorsed study seeks answers from the minds of burglars.

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No doubt you and others in your organization rely heavily on promoting crime deterrence when marketing and selling intrusion alarm systems. Common sense would seem to dictate if alarm system signage is visible, an audible alert sounds upon forced entry and response is summoned that burglars would flee before doing their worst or target premises without such systems. Yet the skeptics and critics have persisted, with little empirical data to back the alarm industry’s assertions. Fortunately, thanks to the important work of the Alarm Industry Research & Educational Foundation (AIREF), that is changing.

In 2008, I sat in on an AIREF Board meeting at the Electronic Security Expo (ESX) in Nashville, Tenn., where I was captivated by the findings of Rutgers University’s study, “The Impact of Home Burglar Systems on Residential Burglaries.” That research found not only a correlation between an increase in residential alarm systems and a decrease in residential burglaries, but also that those systems reduce the likelihood of nearby unprotected homes being hit. While it was a kick to be the first to share that landmark study with the industry, I am even more excited to be able to convey what I was privy to at February’s Electronic Security Association (ESA) Leadership Summit in Orlando, Fla.

In an AIREF Board meeting that included ESA’s Merlin Guilbeau, Interlogix’s Kirk MacDowell, System Sensor’s Charlie Darsch and Security Industry Alarm Coalition’s (SIAC) Stan Martin and Glen Mowrey, researchers revealed the preliminary results of ‘Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective.” The AIREF-sanctioned study was conducted by criminal justice professors from Eastern Kentucky University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Western Illinois University.

Whereas the Rutgers study drew conclusions by analyzing existing data and only focused on residences, this new project is based on surveys of more than 400 incarcerated burglars who violated both domestic and commercial properties. By venturing inside the minds of actual perpetrators, this unique study provides fascinating insights. In addition to being immensely pertinent to the alarm industry, it also illuminates significant sociological issues. The objective of the study was to answer the following five questions:

  1. What motivates burglars to engage in burglary?
  2. What factors are considered during target selection?
  3. What deters burglars from specific targets?
  4. What techniques do burglars use during the commission of their crimes?
  5. Are there gender differences in burglary motivation, target selection, and techniques?

For our purposes, questions 2-4 are particularly relevant. The initial report includes several positive and compelling findings. For example, when asked about alarms: 60% said an alarm would cause them to seek an alternative target; 83% would try to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary; and if a burglary was initiated and an alarm was found, half would discontinue the attempt. Wow, there’s your deterrence, naysayers! And alarms and surveillance cameras topped most other types of deterrents, including dogs and steel bars.

That’s just the tip of what looks to be a very refreshing iceberg for security professionals. Imagine the powerful impact these statistics could have on anyone from end users to law enforcement to insurers — even alarm system providers with proof of their meaningful contributions to public safety. And it may be just the ticket to tip the scale in favor of the industry when the false alarm issue heats up. 

The official finalized study results are expected to be shared at June’s ESX Nashville event. In the meantime, I urge you to support AIREF by donating whatever you can to its vital cause. An enjoyable way to do that is by participating in the 10th Annual AIREF Golf Classic on April 9, the day before the ISC West expo opens. For more info, call (203) 762-2444 or visit It’s an ideal way to spend your day before relaxing at SSI’s SAMMY Awards/Hall of Fame gala at 4:30 p.m. I hope to see you there!

Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine has spent more than 14 years with SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. He can be reached at (704) 663-7125.

Article Topics
Business Management · Intrusion · AIREF · Between Us Pros · Charlie Darsch · ESA · Glen Mowrey · Interlogix · All Topics

About the Author
Scott Goldfine
Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration, directing all editorial aspects of the magazine brand in print, electronically, online and in person. The voluminous, innovative and award-winning body of work he has distinguished himself with since joining the publication in 1998 includes groundbreaking research, landmark features, leadership roundtables, high profile case studies, and many industry exclusives. Well versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is a nationally known figure in demand as an industry presenter and subject matter expert to mainstream media. He is responsible for developing many unique products and programs, including the SSI Industry Hall of Fame, Control Panel (industry’s first E-mail newsletter), Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ), Marketing Marvel, Installers of the Year, Integrated Installation of the Year, Security Industry Census, Systems Integration Study, Installation Business Report, Operations & Opportunities Report, Commercial End-User Study and Security’s Fantastic Fleets. Recognized for his relationship building, integrity and lead-by-example ethic, Goldfine is a solutions-oriented team player who advises and collaborates with industry dealer/integrator, consultant, distributor, central station and manufacturer icons, luminaries and executive business leaders on a daily basis. He is also actively involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), PSA-Tec, SAMMY Awards, International Security Conference and Exhibition (ISC), Electronic Security Technology Summit (ESTS), Mission 500, Electronic Security Expo (ESX), ASIS Int’l, Honeywell CONNECT and other supplier conventions. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee and PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council. A certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast, Goldfine graduated with honors from Cal State, Northridge with a management degree in Radio-Television-Film. His professional media endeavors have encompassed magazines, Internet, radio, TV, film, records, teletext and books. Goldfine resides in the Charlotte, N.C., area with his wife, son and three cats.
Contact Scott Goldfine: [email protected]
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AIREF, Between Us Pros, Charlie Darsch, ESA, Glen Mowrey, Interlogix, Intrusion Alarms

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