Japanese Market for Home Security Heats Up

TOKYO, Sept. 6 -- New home security products are flying off the shelves one after another and turning some Japanese homes into virtual fortresses, but experts say many people still have a false sense of security.

While burglaries decreased by about 10 percent this year from a year ago, robberies and other violent crimes increased 1 percent, according to the National Police Agency.

Nearly 50 percent of burglaries involved breaking glass windows or doors. The agency has warned that people are not necessarily safe just because their main entrance is secure.

Many people do not lock their doors because they trust their neighbors. But houses with unlocked doors accounted for 30 percent of all burglaries. "The Japanese are about 20 years behind American when it comes to crime-prevention consciousness," one expert said.

Takeshi Yoshida, an architect studying how to crime-proof houses at Sekisui House Ltd., said it is important to take measures to avoid becoming a target, to make homes difficult to break into and to curb the extent of damage.

Since more than half of criminals case the places they intend to break into, making your home look "formidable" is important, he said.

Seventy percent of burglars gave up their attempts when it took more than 5 minutes to break in. Measures like multilayered glass and alarms seem to be effective deterrents, he said.

Many advances are being made in the area of home security.

Toyota Home Co. has developed an electronic lock with a keyhole that cannot be seen by employing technology used for high-end cars.

One key manufacturer is seeking to replace the need for a key with the fingerprints of residents.

Reinforced glass is also effective. Asahi Glass Co.'s "Secure" costs about 50,000 yen per 1 square meter.

But cheaper alternatives include a remote-control device, priced at around 6,000 yen, which automatically turns the lights on and off while the residents are away.

The online shop Mametan sells many cheap home security products. "IT is more effective to use two or three cheap goods than to use one expensive one," said shop manager Kaoru Aritomi.

Tokyu Hands Inc. has specialized sales staff on hand at its Shinjuku outlet to advise customers about security products.

Many Japanese are also interested in protecting their privacy.

Sakai House Moving Center Co. started a service that detects wiretaps, which costs about 10,000 yen, in July. "It is supported by people who can easily buy security," said an official at the center.

The Keio Department Store sells a "lace mirror curtain" which prevents people from seeing inside windows. The expensive curtain -- which costs about 1,500 yen per square meter -- is popular with customers, said a public relations official.