While the overall economy is down, business is alarmingly good for at least one local security company.
"We are busier now than ever before. The economy has not affected our business at all," said Eric Thaler, president/owner of Secure-Tec Inc., Duncansville. "Our sales have increased about 20 percent in the last year. Last year we had the best year we have had in 21 years. And even in this economy, we expect this year will be better than last year."
The security system industry was an $11 billion business in 1990 and is projected to grow to a $28 billion industry this year, said Richard Ginsburg, chief executive officer of Lawrence, Kan.-based Protection One.
Personal safety is the biggest reason people are installing home security systems. More people now want the system for when they are at home, Thaler said.
"That seems to be more important to people than property protection. It used to be about 30 percent usage when [people are] at home, but now it is about 60 [percent] to 70 percent," Thaler said. "People say they buy it for personal protection when at home."
Brice Beaver, president of Security Systems of America, which has an office in Johnstown, said a security system provides peace of mind.
"With the economy being down, it would seem there would be an increase in crime and would generally mean an increase in security systems sales, but it has been pretty stable for us," Beaver said. "A lot of people are not proactive. They are usually reactive after something happens. People who own older homes are more reactive to what happens in the neighborhood."
Ginsburg said a home security system protects a person's biggest asset.
"A home security system is a small investment to make to protect your loved ones, your pets and your biggest investment," he said. "It gives you a sense of security."
He noted having a security system may also make a homeowner eligible for a discount on his homeowners' insurance policy.
Joe Smithmyer, president of Smithmyer's Electronics, Altoona, said research has shown that if a criminal sees a security system sticker or evidence of an alarm system, he will target a house that appears to be unprotected.
There is a wide range of prices to install a home security system.
Beaver said some companies offer a free or low-cost installation, and then the homeowner pays for system monitoring. The price can also vary by length of the security contract and the size of the home.
"Our systems begin at about $500. We only sell ones that customers own," Thaler said.
Smithmyer said he also sells systems outright to customers.
"As far as monitoring, we offer the first year at no charge and for the second year it is $19.95 a month. We offer a two-year contract with an annual renewal after the first two years," he said. "Some of the national chains put [the system] in for free but the customers don't realize they don't own the equipment. If they move, the company can yank it out."
Companies such as Protection One don't sell the systems to customers, but rather install their systems and charge a monthly maintenance fee. Ginsburg said the monthly fee is between $32 and $46, depending on what the customer wishes to have monitored.
"We maintain ownership of the system. It is more expensive for the customer to buy it outright," Ginsburg said. "We take a risk with our customer and hope they will be with us for many years."
Mirror staff writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.