The Crude History of Home Security
If we look at home security before the advent of electricity, we will find pretty primitive methods. Wealthy families may have hired a strong man with a club or a gun to stand guard around the home. Others may have bolted the windows and doors closed during the night, and during the day kept a close eye on the property themselves. During a time when right and wrong was relative, families often had to take the safety of their loved ones into their own hands.
During the 1800’s it was common for only one or two law enforcers to be assigned to cities and towns. Residents were often recruited to uphold the law, and enforce it. This often led to corruption and an attitude of bribery and extortion. If a farmhouse was ransacked and burnt to the ground, property owners may have had to pay the sheriff to do a halfhearted investigation which often led to little if any reprisal. Sometimes the lawmen may have even been involved in the crime via a payoff intended to ‘convince’ the sheriff to look the other way. So what choice did the average farmer have but to arrange for their own means of home security?
Armed guards were the main method until the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932. The thought of someone coming into the home and whisking away a child terrified parents all over the globe. The Lindbergh child’s body was discovered on May 12th and in the June edition of Modern Mechanics a large article about the latest home security inventions was featured. It begins with: “Inventors working in the cause of law and order, inspired by a recent outbreak of outrageous kidnappings and other crimes have perfected numerous devices…”. There is a large picture of a man in a small child’s bedroom seeming to just be in the process of taking the child when various lights and cameras are triggered. The illustration identifies “invisible infrared … rays projected between photoelectric cells across doorways or windows sound instant alarm when the body of an intruder passes across the rays”. There are cameras mounted in the walls that take a picture of the trespasser when the bedposts detect an electrical charge from the hand of said intruder.
It is pretty obvious to surmise that only the wealthy could afford such a comprehensive home security system. Less affluent families may have used another more simple system that involved buttons installed on door and window frames that if released caused an alarm to sound. The only downside to the device is that the burglar simply had to close the window or door for the alarm to stop sounding. This would be great if they were already inside the home and couldn’t leave without the alarm sounding again. Then the trespasser would be a sitting duck for police. If they never made it into the house, then really there is not much harm. Nothing and no one was taken, but there was still an attempt to get in which may alarm some homeowners.
Today home security is much more effective. Most middle class families have systems that are unobtrusive, easy to use and relatively inexpensive. Monitored systems are connected to a central calling station that will dispense emergency services should the alarm go off. It is easy to forget that alarm systems don’t just monitor for break ins. They can also be calibrated to sense floods, fire, carbon monoxide, frozen pipes, and burst hot water tanks.
If you have pets that move around the home freely such as dogs, cats or birds, it is important to inform your alarm company before installation. Motion sensors will pick up on the smallest movement, and if the installers are not aware of the animals living in the home the alarm will sound whenever your cat yawns. Ask them to adjust the sensors to allow for small movements and perhaps aim them at windows or doors.
No matter what neighborhood you live in, it is always a good idea to protect your possessions and loved ones. Having a home security system does not mean you expect your child to be kidnapped. It only means you have a non-invasive set of eyes looking out for fire, flood, carbon monoxide or other harmful gases. Peace of mind is something you can always invest in but never get back after a disaster occurs.