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Home security without a trace

Gone are the days of gutted walls and snaked wires

around pools in the name of home security. Wireless is becoming the standard in

the security industry; and without the physical limitations and nuisance of a

hard-wired system installation, the costs have gradually been lowered for

concerned homeowners.

Though most of the do-it-yourself wireless systems hook up to the

traditional home phone line, technology has led to expanded customer options.

Some keypads are accessible off-site and owners can call in to monitor home

activity, pets, temperature and lighting.

Home security remains a major concern among Americans, who spent an

estimated $23.2 billion in 2005 on professionally installed electronic security

products and services, according to the National Burglar and Fire Alarm

Association.

Though several companies offer installed wireless services, 15 minutes and

$100 can lead to a self-installed security system. The main security hub plugs

into an electrical outlet and telephone jack. Cameras are then wirelessly

synced with the hub and, voil ... , a guarded space.

For some systems with monitoring services, once an alarm is triggered, a

signal is sent to a monitoring company that then checks on the situation and

notifies the authorities. Some wireless systems are solely for video

monitoring, and will alert homeowners by cell phone of any activity. These

systems do not sound alarms or contact a third party monitors.

Here are some of the more popular systems:

LaserShield

Price: $199.95

Description: To install, users plug the main unit into a power outlet and

telephone jack. Even when unplugged, the siren can continue to sound, operating

on back-up batteries. The system covers up to 1,200 square feet and works

through walls up to 150 feet. When triggered, the system lets out a 100-decibel

siren - as loud as a jackhammer - and dials the monitoring service, which then

checks on the situation or notifies the authorities.

Bells and whistles: LaserShield offers a $19.95 monthly monitoring fee,

serviced by Rapid Response Monitoring Service.

Available: Amazon.com, CompUSA (beginning July 7)

Web site: www.laser shield.net

Plug N' Power

Price: $99.99, accessories additional

Description: Radio Shack's wireless security system features the usual

suspects in home security: motion detector alarm, window sensors and password

protection. Easy to self-install, the system works through your home's phone

line.

Off-site access: No

Bells and whistles: This bare-bones system allows for more spending money

once you've left your wirelessly secured house.

Available: Radio Shack

Web site: www.radioshack.com

MobiCam

Price: $189.00, accessories additional

Description: Originally marketed as an advanced baby monitor, the MobiCam

system beams visual images to a small hand-held remote screen. Cameras can be

set up to be voice- or motion- activated. Fun add-ons include a mountable

outdoor camera and an AV receiver that automatically sends camera images to

your television. Unlike more expandable systems, the MobiCam receiver can

accommodate images from only three cameras, which makes it more suitable for

child monitoring than creating an iron-clad shield against intruders.

Bells and Whistles: Night vision helps monitor sleeping children and

doorways.

Available: Amazon.com,

Target.com, Walmart.com

Web site: www.mobi-inc.com

LukWerks

Price: $299.99, accessories additional

Description: Users can peer into their homes from work or abroad by

logging on to a secure Web site. The easy self-installation requires a USB

hook-up and power outlet. Video images and alerts can be sent to customers'

cell phones.

Bells and whistles: Users can queue the system to record at specific times

or when a motion sensor is triggered. Once your hard drive is full, the

software's "smart" system deletes your oldest video files to make room for new

reels.

Available: Wilife.com, Radio Shack, Amazon.com

Web site: www.wilife.com

GE Security Pro - Simon 3 or Concord

Price: $75 to $185, plus installation fees

Description: GE's top-seller, the Simon 3, and the more expanded Concord

are sold only through local dealers. The Simon 3, intended for the average-size

home, performs much like traditional alarm systems. An add-on satellite

hook-up is available that provides a back-up alarm system when the phone line

is down.

The Concord - more suitable for large homes - is especially useful for

those living with the elderly, sick or disabled. The system will send an alert

to a cell phone if it does not detect motion by a particular time. Also,

homebound users can remotely control Concord to turn on the air conditioning,

heat or even the hot tub.

Bells and whistles: Users can program unique, one-time use passwords for

service workers or children. The system can also be customized to accommodate

for the movements of house pets less than 80 pounds.

Available: Consult GE Security Pro Web site for local dealers.

Web site: http://gesecuritypro .com/NorthAmerica/

residential/index.cfm

A word from the pros

The lowered cost and the ego-boosting practice of installing your own security

system might give the product added value, but many security experts point out

that knowing where to put cameras and sensors is critical to an efficient

system.

Sunlight, sprinklers and other seemingly innocuous objects can trigger

misplaced sensors and inexperienced homeowners can easily overlook vulnerable

entrances. Ronald Burk, a detective in the Nassau County Police crimes against

property squad, suggests homeowners first hire a security consultant to survey

the property, whether the system is going to be self-installed or a contractor

is being hired.

"It's all about how you install the alarm system," Burk said. "The bottom

line is, basically, you have to think like a burglar and do a survey of your

home and look what would be a point of entry."

Chris E. McGoey, a security consultant who splits his time between Los

Angeles and San Francisco, said he is wary of wireless systems but recommends

that people get whichever system they are comfortable using.

McGoey, a licensed private investigator, said he felt many homeowners buy

unnecessary home security items and said the majority do not use their alarm

systems.

With home monitoring monthly fees ranging from $20 to $50, McGoey thought

the expense a waste when simpler deterrents like turning on lights to make a

home look lived-in work just as well.

"If you're targeted with such a frequency that you need video camera

monitoring in your house, there are other issues," McGoey said. "You might

consider moving."

"I think anything that can help deter a burglar is good. I don't care what

it is," said Burk, whose own home has been wirelessly secured for three years.

Despite all the new techno-gadgets, Burk and other security experts said

the best deterrent against burglars is the security sign on your lawn or window

decals.

- Megan H. Chan

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