Burglary is not a big problem in Payson, Payson Police Department Detective Steve Johnson said, but with changing demographics and more people moving up from Phoenix, it could be in the future.
Arizona Burglar and Fire Alarm Association members declared June Burglary Prevention Month a time for all Arizonans to re-evaluate the safety of their homes.
Payson has an average of less than four burglaries per month, Johnson said, which is very low compared to the national average.
"We've been extremely fortunate to not have a lot of residential burglaries. We have some, but not nearly as many as usual for a small town," he said.
In 1999, two of three burglaries were residential and 60 percent of those occurred during the daytime. That's when people get most slack about security, said Sue Brenton, ABFAA executive director.
Brenton said an alarm system that covers the entire perimeter of a home is the best deterrent.
Leading security consultant groups report that 90 percent of police officials believe security alarms deter burglary attempts.
ABFAA data indicates that burglars are scared of the very presence of an electronic system, despite its quality. In fact, burglars attack homes without an electronic security system three times more often than homes with a system, according to a Temple University study.
Johnson does not personally recommend buying a system because he thinks they are too expensive, and that locking doors and windows will do almost as much good.
"A lot of people up here don't lock their houses. That's the biggest problem," he said.
A supplement to door-locking is to have a good relationship with neighbors, Brenton said. She said she was surprised Payson had such a low burglary rate, and chalked it up to people looking out for each other.
"In smaller communities, people know their neighbors and watch out for unusual activity." Brenton said an alarm is still a good idea, however.
Basic elements of a standard system include a control panel (the "brain"), a keypad to turn off the system, a siren, and an inside motion station that summons law enforcement.
The only problem with security systems is that there are so many false alarms.
The National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association reports that more than 90 percent of all alarm calls to police are false, which is a major irritation to police officers.
"It's such a waste of time and resources to the cops," Brenton said. "That's why some towns and cities charge people who report too many false alarms."
The NBFAA and the ABFAA are trying to spread information this month on how to use alarms properly.
If the homeowner cannot afford an alarm system, the best thing to do is install interior and exterior lights, use deadbolt locks, start a community policing program, and get a dog.
When on vacation, have a trusted neighbor house sit, and inform neighbors of your plans.
For more information on how to protect your home, call the ABFAA at (602) 277-2500.
Burglary prevention tips
Are you doing all you can to keep your home safe from burglars? These tips could help stop unwanted visitors from entering your home:
Develop good security habits. Roughly one-third of all burglaries occur because doors and windows are left unlocked.
Make sure exterior doors are strong. The doors to your home should be made of metal or solid hardwood and be at least one inch thick. It is also important that your door frames are constructed equally well and that doors fit in their frames securely. A weak door or door frame renders a good lock useless. Add an extra lock for sliding glass doors to prevent them from being forced open or lifted off their tracks.
Deadbolt locks offer the best protection. The cylinder where the key is inserted should be "pick resistant." Lock your windows with key locks or other devices. It is also possible for you to pin the sashes of a double-hung window together by using a removable bolt.
Consider a burglar alarm. Security systems vary in cost, but often the price can be at least partially offset by discounts in your homeowners premiums. So before purchasing an alarm system, check with your insurance company to see which alarm systems will get you a discount.
Keep your home well lit. When you go out for the evening, leave a few lights on in the house, and leave the outside lights on, too. Place outdoor motion-activated floodlights high out of reach so they can't be easily tampered with.
Before going away overnight, put lights and a radio on automatic timers.