Industry Insiders on the Real Importance of 'It Takes a Thief'

Santamorena, Simonetti and Maniscalco give the low-down on the soft side of thievery

Ask folks like Assa Abloy's Frank Santamorena or Honeywell's Rich Simonetti and Ralph Maniscalco why they got involved in The Discovery Channel's "It Takes a Thief" television program, and they'll gladly tell you that it wasn't about the money. It wasn't even about the exposure. It was, as they all three have said, a very personal experience about the soft side of security. It was about connecting to people on a personal level with the trust it takes to secure their families and their homes.

Or, as Frank Santamorena, who became the show's lead security consultant, might tell you, "My wife said to me, 'You have to do this.'"

All three were involved with the production of the hit show that takes break-ins to a whole new level. Santamorena provided the gritty details the show needed to effectively secure the families' homes, while Simonetti and Maniscalco worked together and with others at Honeywell behind the scenes to donate alarm systems technology to keep the show running. It's often their panels, sensors, glass breaks, keypads and door position sensors that are being installed behind the scenes in the "It Takes a Thief" homes.

In an interview with and Security Dealer, Santamorena explained his driving duties behind the show in a language that all dealers and integrators can understand:

"You take the family and you look and see if there's good lighting at the home; you check the height of bushes, and you make sure that they're paying attention to the simple changes," he said when asked about how he started to secure these homes. "And when I sell them on security, I'm not afraid to ask them how valuable their family's safety really is. The mindset for residential alarm systems can't just be about personal property; it has to be about life safety."

Honeywell's Rich Simonetti said he understands exactly what that soft side of security means.

"I remember when my own home was burglarized," said Simonetti. "It was a frightening experience. My wife was terrified and said we needed to move. Shortly thereafter, I moved into the security industry. And from that day on, I have been very passionate about the service we provide."

Of course, to respond to the burglary Simonetti implemented some changes just like what the "It Takes a Thief" program would endorse. He changed the locks and installed an alarm system and assessed his property.

But rather than wait for a burglary to hit home, "It Takes a Thief" stages a burglary as a way to aptly point out security deficiencies at the guest family's residence. The break-ins are real. The glass is really broken; possessions are often trashed; privacy is truly trampled.

"What the show does," said Simonetti, "is to shock them through the theatrics, and it shows them that their family and personal possessions are dear to them. It teaches them that 'I should wake up!'"

That wake-up call is what's vital to the show, explained Maniscalco.

"The show encourages a preemptive approach effort, because it encourages proactive usage of security," he said. "I think the show was designed to show how much we could do."

But it's not just about showing what our technology can do, added Simonetti, but about showing the owners what they should be doing.

"You need to give homeowners things they can do -- to trim the bushes, to check on the paper's delivery," he explained. "We always provide those kinds of materials to the homeowners. It's not just about products, but about effecting change within behaviors."

And if you watch the show, you know that the behaviors do need to change. Ask Santamorena what he thinks the typical American homeowner's level of security is and Frank won't paint you a pretty picture.

"It's ridiculous; it's just dismal," he says. "Half the time I design security systems, it's after they've been broken into."

Prices are starting to change that mindset, notes Simonetti, especially as good technology becomes available at prices that are a bargain.

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