Wisdom From a Criminal Mind

This month, we are spotlighting the current state of sales and marketing within the installing systems integrator ranks of the electronic security industry. The SAMMY Awards coverage (page 30 in the print version) probes the minds of our industry’s most brilliant marketers, including examples of their prize-winning work, while SSI’s Sales and Marketing Survey (page 62 of the print version) examines methodologies and costs. Recently, I saw an unusual TV program that I believe our industry could learn from to help better market itself.

The program, which aired on Charlotte, N.C.’s Government Channel, was called “Confessions of a Burglar” and featured the area’s most prolific home burglar, Anthony Ferguson, who revealed the tactics he used to burglarize more than 600 area homes in the 1980s and 1990s. Ferguson confessed to his crimes after being caught in 1999 and, as part of a plea bargain, spent days talking to police about his methods.

Posing as a gardener, Ferguson carried out his burglaries during the day, usually between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. His livelihood was based on stealing jewelry and immediately selling it to a fence. When he cased middle- to upper-class neighborhoods, he would look for homes where it was evident a woman lived. The giveaway would be telltale signs such as a nicely manicured lawn and flowers or a child’s swing set or toys lying about.

If it were apparent a woman lived in the residence, Ferguson would make certain there was a window shielded from view by a hedge, wall, etc. He almost always favored breaking in through windows as opposed to doors. If circumstances were ideal, he would knock on the door to make sure no one was home. Before entering the premises, Ferguson would wait nearby for a half-hour to make sure a neighbor had not seen him and called the police.

The thief says he especially liked rainy days because that’s when people were in a hurry and more likely to forget locking their doors or activating their alarm systems. In general, he spoke very matter-of-factly and nonchalantly about burglar alarm systems. In fact, he says he especially liked to target homes with alarm systems because half the time residents did not arm them.

According to Ferguson, he was frequently aided by faulty installation methods, as a chronic gaff was a keypad installed near a window, which allowed him to see whether it was activated or not. He adds that most two-story homes with alarm systems were only wired for security on the first floor, which permitted him to enter second-floor windows.

Even if the system was armed, Ferguson would often still break into the home. He says he defeated window contacts by removing the glass panes and leaving the window frame intact. On occasion, he circumvented motion sensors by crashing through walls to get from room to room. On the upside, if an alarm were triggered as he entered, he would flee.

To the casual viewer, Ferguson’s tale could be construed as an indictment of the effectiveness of burglar alarm systems. However, I see it much differently. I see it as an extraordinary opportunity for alarm companies to review their systems sales, design, installation and maintenance procedures to make sure their customers are better protected than those victimized by Ferguson.

Are you providing your clients with a complete, thorough needs analysis that includes all matters pertaining to security and safety, not just sensors, wiring, control panel and keypad? Are you following established, proven design and installation practices that reflect the specific environment and lifestyle of the system’s owner? Are you keeping in touch with customers to make sure they are using their system and that it remains well maintained?

If you are doing these things, then you are truly serving your customers’ best interests and doing your part to better market the entire industry.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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