Security Systems Not One Size Fits All

Jul. 14--Criminals often target small businesses, striking their inventories and their sense of security.

Two area jewelry stores were burglarized within months of each other, leaving the owners with more than $500,000 in combined losses. In both cases, the store owners questioned the viability of their security systems.

Choosing an alarm system is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur makes when establishing a business, say security experts.

"Criminals don't just pick a random place," said Tim Dimoff, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services Inc. in Akron. "They check it out a couple of times. They find the weak links."

"No system is perfect," said Dave Simon, a spokesperson for Brinks Security Systems of Irving, Texas.

"Bypassing a security system isn't an easy thing to do, but it can be done.... People who are capable of doing it are very knowledgeable. They have studied up and done it more than once or twice."

Most small business owners go for the cheapest system rather than one that fits their needs, Dimoff said.

Brian Charles, president of ACE Security in Akron, said, "Money is the main issue in security systems, especially when it comes to small businesses, and especially in this economy."

A basic system, including the smallest commercial security panel and a few motion sensors, can cost a business a few hundred dollars. In most cases, the system will send a signal to a monitoring station, and the police will be notified, if necessary.

"The smallest systems are for mom-and-pop stores with only a few windows and a glass front door," said Marc Dion, operations manager for Worldwide Security in Akron.

From there, businesses can upgrade and add special features.

If the security panel and phone lines are shut down, a cellular panel backup positioned in another area of the store can automatically contact an off-site monitoring station.

Panic buttons can be added at especially susceptible points on safes and under desks. They are activated by touch and send an alert to police, bypassing the monitoring station.

Security companies also can install cameras and closed-circuit television for around-the-clock visual monitoring.

Small businesses spend $1,500 on average for a system, Dion said, but the price of an advanced system can reach $15,000.

"The upper echelon of price is big warehouses with 100 doors or more. Price is relative to the amount of protection points," Dion said.

Price also rises depending on the technology used.

But before deciding to spend $300 to $15,000 on a security system, small business owners should consider how much protection their facility and their neighborhood require, said Simon of Brinks Security.

Stores that sell commonly burglarized items that can be easily resold, such as jewelry, appliances and antiques, are most at risk, he said.

Dion said that restaurants, convenience stores, factories and credit unions -- any business that contains significant inventory or cash -- should be protected with at least a centrally monitored system for the building's interior and exterior.

"Unfortunately, if you are a small business, you have a lot more to lose," said Erin Lebarre, operations coordinator for F-M Security in Akron. "You want to protect your valuables, yourself, and your employees."

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