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Omaha Magazine

Porch Pirates, Ahoy

Feb 25, 2019 02:43PM ● By Charlie Litton

If you had a package stolen from your front porch over the holiday season, you weren't alone. About 30 percent of Americans suffered the same fate at the hands of so-called "porch pirates."

One NASA engineer went viral online with a video documenting how he invented a glitter bomb armed with fart spray to bedazzle and be-stink would-be thieves. It was joyful to watch, but most of us don't have his experience building Mars rovers—or a handful of iPhones and custom circuit boards laying around—or even a soldering iron, for that matter.

Most civilians must rely on more modest security solutions. But the available options have become increasingly high-tech and convenient for non-engineers. Hence, the booming market for smart home security devices.

Having a package stolen from the front porch is aggravating, but it doesn't quite rise to the level of burglary—i.e., someone kicking down the front door and looting the place.

The good news is burglaries in the United States dropped by 7.6 percent from 2016 to 2017. In Omaha, the rate remained relatively flat during that same time frame, though burglaries decreased by 11 percent during 2018 (according to statistics from the Omaha Police Department).

The FBI also reports that burglaries are three times more likely in homes without a security system.

Local retailers have an extensive selection of smart home and security measures that can get you started with something like a doorbell camera for about $100. A more complex solution—one that integrates automated lights, thermostats, cameras, and the works—can run several thousand dollars.

A workable solution, professionals say, should fit just about any budget.

"Regardless of the size of the home or income level, we can find a solution that works for your home and family specifically," says Don McGuire, a design consultant at Atronic Alarms in Omaha."Your necessity for security doesn't change whether you own or rent,” he adds.

For those more interested in a DIY project, several kits are available locally, including at Nebraska Furniture Mart, which also has the ability to customize and install security systems.

"I like to joke with my customers that I can do anything from basic to bonkers," says Russell Weaver, electronics sales manager at Nebraska Furniture Mart.

A basic doorbell camera installs on most homes' low-voltage doorbell wiring systems for about $100. But the DIY crowd should know what they're getting into.

"Where people struggle with that is that they don't always know what they're getting," McGuire says. "Sometimes that works out, and sometimes it’s a disaster."

A more complex system with a professional install will start at about $2,000, and might run another $20-$60 a month for a professional monitoring service.

"It varies on what you're monitoring and all the bells and whistles," McGuire says. "You could pay more, but you don't need to. That's an acceptable range."

Around-the-clock professional monitoring services will contact police when necessary. A more robust security system and service could also monitor fire, health, water, and toxic fumes (such as carbon monoxide).

However, more people are relying on self-monitoring systems that integrate into smartphones. They can keep an eye on that garage door that someone always forgets to close; check the thermostat; or see who's ringing the doorbell, no matter where in the world the homeowner might be at that particular moment.

Weaver and McGuire agree that the smartest first step toward a smart and secure home is a conversation with a design consultant.

"We're supposed to be consultants," McGuire says. "A salesperson pushes a product, a consultant helps you find what you need."

For more information about smart home security options, consider contacting:

This list is not exhaustive. Potential buyers should shop around to find the best fit for their personal home security needs.

This article was printed in the March/April 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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