Protecting home and property options?
November 27, 2005 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Protecting home and property options?

1. If I installed a DIY home security system, would it be able to auto-dial the fire/police or do I have to pay someone licenced to provide that service, and what does that entail?

2. I heard about some technique to watermark personal property that shows up in UV light or something but I cant find anything about it. What would be involved in this kind of thing if I had to prove to the police that something belonged to me?
posted by GleepGlop to Technology (9 answers total)
The UV pens and lights are widely available on eBay, etc. There are some nifty webcam software programs that detect motion at any threshold you set, then upload the video to a secure site, or dial your cell phone, etc. So even if someone steals your computer, you are notified and have the video as proof. The RCMP here suggest you mark property with your driver's license number, prefixed with BCDL (British Columbia Driver's License). That way they will notify you, even if they find your computer in Manitoba.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:30 PM on November 27, 2005

You can't have a system auto-dial police or fire due to the very high percentage of false alarms.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:35 PM on November 27, 2005

Response by poster: What about things these UV pens may not be able to mark like jewelery?
posted by GleepGlop at 12:37 PM on November 27, 2005

I'm not sure about jewelry, but good, close-up photos would be a start. And marking your computer could help locate your jewelry.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:43 PM on November 27, 2005

The vast majority of cities and towns will not allow you to have a security system auto-dial the police, because over 95% of the alarms from home security systems are false alarms. You can certainly install a security system yourself and pay an alarm company to monitor it, but it might be easier (and possibly cheaper) to just pay for the system and monitoring at the same time.

As to the marking of personal property, the easiest way I've found is to get an engraver (about $15 at any home improvement store) and mark your valuables that way. For things that can't be engraved (like DVDs and CDs), use a permanent marker. Keep in mind that you want the police to find the number, and they won't always check for a UV pen. The best thing to engrave is your surname and your driver's license number, but check with your local police for what's best where you are - it'll be whatever is easiest for the police to track back to you. Generally, if property is marked with a number uniquely identifiable as yours (like a driver's license number), and has been reported as stolen to the police, there shouldn't be a problem getting it back if it's recovered.

Things like jewelry either need to be engraved by a jeweler, or photographed.

Before you worry about an alarm system, there are a couple of things that you should look into first:

1) Ensure your doors and windows have adequate locks, especially sliding windows and patio doors.
2) Ensure your property is well lit.
3) Get to know your neighbours, and make sure that they know you. That way, everybody is more likely to spot people and vehicles that shouldn't be there. Consider joining a neighbourhood watch group, if one exists in your area.

Some excellent tips are available
at this link.

This is a bit of a 'pet subject' for me (I run the local neighbourhood watch group and have a degree in Criminology), so if you've got other questions about this subject please feel free to e-mail me - my e-mail is in my profile.
posted by gwenzel at 1:38 PM on November 27, 2005

Response by poster: The good thing about invisible ID is that the thief wont know its there and may get caught with their pants down trying to claim it as their own.
If it were clearly engraved they would obviously never try this and nobody would ever see the item again.
But I have to wonder how you can truly prove something is yours. Maybe you swiped his proof of purchase, maybe you surreptitiously UV pen'd it with your own drivers license #...
posted by GleepGlop at 2:04 PM on November 27, 2005

From my own experience:

- An alarm system isn't much help, unless local ordinances allow you to have the siren mounted outside. (mine don't) If the system is monitored by an alarm company, it will still take a while to go through the required phone calls, etc, before they alert the police, then for the police to show up. By that time the criminals are long gone.

- I was told by the cops that the number one thing that deters break-ins is difficulty getting in. My old-fashioned sash windows are a no-brainer - the jerks just pop the locks out using a crow-bar. If you have double or triple-paned glass with multiple locks you will deter most people. I installed aluminum pegs that go through both sashes, and I block the bottom sash from opening with a dowel.

BTW, the last time my house was broken into I had an alarm. The jerk(s) pulled the keypad and the siren right off the wall. My only solace is that I have nothing worth stealing, so they left empty-handed.
posted by shifafa at 6:33 PM on November 27, 2005

GleepGlop: It's true that the thief would be able to spot the markings, but that doesn't defeat their purpose. The street value of marked items is much lower, making it harder to sell or pawn them. Most thieves don't steal stuff to keep it - they usually sell it to turn it into cash.

shifafa: Alarm systems help most by making your home less of a target -- alarmed homes get broken into less than homes without alarms (most thieves will just go for an easier target). They're not foolproof, but nothing is. It's very true that target hardening is the best way to minimize break-ins, but an alarm system is part of target hardening.
posted by gwenzel at 7:30 PM on November 27, 2005

Be friendly with your neighbors and get a dog. I don't know of any technological solution that works better.

... Although thermoscopic laser turrets would be pretty rad. Program in your heat signature, set it, and forget it.
posted by Hildago at 8:39 AM on November 28, 2005

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