Home security systems make you feel safe and sound while you sleep, vacation, or work away from home. They’re a blanket of security that watches over your house when you’re not there. In Austin, Texas, that security blanket is crucial. This bustling metropolitan area has a growing population, police officers that are arguably stretched too thin, and a higher crime rate than the U.S. average.
For those reasons and a few others, we’ve narrowed down our tip picks for Austin home security to Vivint, ADT, and Frontpoint. Each system has its upsides and downsides. In fact, there’s no right answer when it comes to choosing between them. Just know that a home security system is an investment, so consider your family, your needs, and your location before choosing.
Vivint, ADT, and Frontpoint
All three of our top picks have their own unique selling points, but they also have a lot in common. Each company provides a wide range of home automation features, a phone app, equipment add-ons, wireless equipment, and cellular-based options. With ADT, you do have the option between wired and wireless. You can save you some money if you go with a wired option, but you’ll lose out on home automation features.
ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint also all provide 24/7/365 customer service and monitoring, but Frontpoint’s service continually comes out on top. ADT comes in a close second with Vivint trailing behind. Vivint has had an unfortunate history of poor customer service, but they’ve recently brought their Better Business Bureau rating up to a B+. Things are definitely on the up and up for them.
In terms of price, ADT is the most affordable, followed by Frontpoint, and then Vivint. ADT’s monthly monitoring price ranges from $27.99 to $59 and includes the price of equipment. With Frontpoint, you need to purchase your equipment bundle upfront and then pay a monthly monitoring fee of $34.99 to $49.99. Vivint works similarly to Frontpoint, but you do have the option to finance the equipment, which is good news considering its $700 to $1800 sticker price. Monitoring costs range from $39.99 to $49.99, making Vivint the most expensive option by far.
Another big factor that sets the three companies apart is installation. ADT and Vivint require professional installation. You’ll need to set an appointment to have a technician come to your home. You also get the added bonus of receiving personalized security recommendations. Unfortunately, installation costs anywhere from $0 with a promotion to $200. Frontpoint goes a different route. Their installation is 100% DIY and takes just 30 minutes to complete. Every component is wall-friendly with no drills required. It’s a great choice for the 42.36% of Austin households that rent.
Now that you know a little bit about each of our three top picks, it’s time to look at what system will perform best in your Austin home.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Home Security System in Austin
Austin is HOT
What does heat have to do with home security? Most home security systems these days–ADT, Frontpoint, and Vivint included–do much more than just protect your home from intruders. They also protect your home from your forgetfulness, help you save money, and make life more convenient. Our top three pick for Austin home security all offer smart thermostats. These devices will help you stay prepared during the 116 days per year that temperatures reach 90°F and on the 18 days per year when they reach 100 °F.
With a smart thermostat, you’ll always know your home’s temperature no matter where you are. Using ADT, Vivint, or Frontpoint’s home security app, you can monitor the temperature and make adjustments remotely. Why might you need to do that? Imagine that you’ve left your dog at home and the temperature spikes in the afternoon. Instead of letting your doggie overheat or having to drive back home to turn on the AC, you can do it in seconds on your phone. This feature is also a great money-saver. Leaving in a hurry for a long weekend and forgot to turn off the AC? No problem. Just turn it off as soon as you get a chance from your phone. You’ll save some money on your power bill.
The City is Getting Bigger
Austin’s population continues to grow. In fact, some consider Austin to be one of the fastest growing cities in the country. For current residents, this means an influx of strangers into your neighborhood and a larger number of people for police to protect. All of these changes can put your home’s safety at risk. Add an extra level of protection to your home by investing in a home security system.
Since name recognition can go a long way when it comes to home security, you may want to choose ADT. Backed by 140 years of experience, this company has unmatched brand recognition. Austin’s new residents won’t have any trouble figuring out that your home is protected. Their logo on your front door or window can scare off potential intruders too. Plus, ADT can send a guard to your home if your system goes off. This means that you’ll get help even if the police are busy.
Do You Have a Dog?
WalletHub ranks Austin at No. 4 on its list of Most Pet-Friendly Cities. In 2017, the American Housing Survey also revealed that Austin has the third-highest percentage of households with pets out of all major US cities. If you’re one of these pet owners–especially if you’re a dog or cat owner–you need to consider your pet ownership as you choose your home security system. Pets, mainly those weighing over 30-40 pounds, can cause false alarms. False alarms cost you money and waste police resources. Luckily, home security companies offer many features that keep pet-related false alarms to a minimum.
ADT offers pet-friendly motion sensors. You can leave them active while you’re out without worrying about your pet causing a false alarm. However, if your pet is especially rambunctious, you may still want to turn them off. This is easy to do as well. Just deactivate the sensors with the ADT app or control panel. The rest of your system will stay armed, and you won’t have to worry about your pet triggering a false alarm.
Frontpoint loves pet owners so much that it offers a special pet-friendly Safe Home Plus equipment package. The package includes a central hub and keypad, three window/door sensors, and two glass break sensors. With this package, you won’t get any motion control sensors and don’t have to pay to add any unless you want to.
Crime Rates in Your Neighborhood
The City of Austin has a higher crime rate than the national average. Live here and you have a 1 in 28 chance of becoming a victim. Crimes like rape, murder, and theft are significantly higher in Austin than the average U.S. city. In fact, property crime rates are a whopping 34% higher than the nation’s average. You can take measures on your own to protect yourself from falling victim to a property crime, but a home security system offers the most protection.
When looking at specific Austin neighborhoods, crime statistics become more concerning. Some of the more dangerous areas in Austin include Johnston Terrace and Montopolis. Your chance of being the victim of a crime in these neighborhoods is 1 in 20 and 1 in 16 respectively. The neighborhood at the intersection of Martin Luther King and Highway 183 is especially crime dense. Here, the crime rate is 97% higher than the rest of the city.
Look at crime data specific to your neighborhood. You may be surprised by how safe or how unsafe it is compared to the rest of the city. On the Austin, Texas city website, you can search for crime rates by zip code. You can also do the same on the Community Crime Map website.
If you live in one of Austin’s more crime ridden areas, you should at least get a basic home security system. Residents with landlines can find the best deals from ADT. Packages start at just $27.99. This makes ADT the most affordable option, but again, the discounted packages only work in homes with landlines. If you want a step above basic home security, consider Frontpoint. Their DIY installation, innovative smart-home equipment, and top-notch customer service make them a solid choice.
It’s also worth noting that home security in any form is better than none at all. If you’re in a pinch to install a system due to a recent security threat, don’t stress yourself out. You can always start with a more basic plan and upgrade it as needed. Just some door sensors and window sensors can go a long way. Installing an outdoor camera and using the window decals that come with your equipment order is helpful too. These visuals indicate to a criminal that you have a security system. It’ll make them less likely to target your home.
Your Affinity for Technology
Do you work for a tech company in Austin’s Silicon Hills? Are you proud of Austin’s reputation as a technology hub in America? If so, Vivint is the home security company for you. Their home automation and security equipment can’t be beat. Everything Vivint sells links to its central control hub and Vivint SkyApp, giving you complete control over your home whether you’re in bed, on the run, or on vacation. Plus, their equipment has a sleek, modern look that’s sure to fit in with any tech lover’s home.
Vivint equipment includes a touchscreen panel, Google Home Minis, smart sensors like motion detectors and flood/freeze detectors, doorbell cameras, garage door controllers, and indoor/outdoor cameras. Already have some smart home equipment? Vivint works with Amazon Echo and the Nest Thermostat too. If you’re forgetful, you’ll love Vivint’s smart keypad lock. You can assign a unique code to each family member that can be used to unlock the front door. No keys required. This is great if you have kids or don’t like giving out keys.
Austin Public Safety Organizations and Initiatives
Austin Police Department (APD)
The APD serves the city’s more than 900,000 residents. Roughly 1,900 officers patrol the streets, help prevent crime, enforce the law, and pursue criminal investigations. The force is broken into 35 units and seven patrol divisions. The Austin PD units include the robbery unit, property management unit, and auto theft interdiction unit.
As part of their ongoing transparency and improved performance efforts, the APD meticulously tracks their response times. Response times are broken into two categories: high priority emergency calls and urgent, non-emergency calls. Their call priority system helps ensure police first dedicate their availability to critical calls. Looking at both call categories together, it becomes apparent that the APD lags behind their target goals. In 2015, the most recent year with published data, APD response times averaged 8 minutes 4 seconds. They missed their goal of 7 minutes 30 seconds by 8%.
Since 2010, call volume has steadily increased in Austin. The influx of calls makes it harder for patrol units to respond quickly. If you make a call that doesn’t fall into the emergency or urgent category, expect to wait longer. Some people won’t mind the wait for a non-urgent situation, but for you, it might be concerning. Remember, ADT offers a security patrol service. They can send a security guard to your home to check things out and make sure that you’re safe. Frontpoint and Vivint don’t offer the same luxury in Austin.
Austin Fire Department
The Austin Fire Department is well staffed. Based on the number of employees, it’s the fourth largest fire department in Texas. Of the roughly 1,129 employees, 975 are full-time firefighters or EMS technicians represented by the International Association of Fire Fighters. Together, these first responders operate 9 battalions, 48 stations, 43 fire engines, 3 trucks, 4 platforms, 10 quints, 4 heavy rescue vehicles, 1 urban search and rescue team, 4 airport crash tenders, and 1 rescue boat.
Like the APD, the AFD struggles with response times. Austin’s growing population plays a big factor. Fire stations in Austin should respond within 8 minutes of a call coming in at least 90% of the time. As of 2016, only seven stations meet that goal. Fortunately, the city is well aware of the situation. There’s talk of new fire stations being added and new emergency response tactics being enforced. All of these measures should help improve the AFD’s response times in the near future.
It’s worth noting that response times start as soon as a call comes in. A fire truck or ambulance won’t magically appear exactly 8 minutes after a fire starts or a medical emergency occurs. You need to call it in first. If you can call it in as soon as it happens, the AFD’s slower response times aren’t as significant. Through ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint, you can purchase smart smoke detectors. They’re linked to your home security system and are monitored. With Vivint and Frontpoint and ADT’s upper tier plans, you’ll immediately know if there’s a fire starting in your home. This means you can swiftly take action and get the response process started immediately.
For seniors in Austin, especially those with medical conditions, ADT is a great choice. Their health monitoring system detects falls, and you can alert first responders of a medical emergency with the push of a button. You don’t have to waste any time looking around for a phone or calling for help in hopes of a neighbor hearing you. In a city like Austin, where response times are still slow, this saved time could save your life.
Austin Alarm Administration Unit
The Austin Alarm Administration works to reduce the number of false alarms in the city. It helps to build connections between citizens, law enforcement, and alarm companies. The Alarm Administration Unit also implements alarm prevention measures. These include alarm permit fees and false alarm fees.
Anyone that owns a home security system–either professionally or self-monitored–must purchase a residential alarm permit. Residential alarm permits last for 12 months and cost $50 per year. You must apply for an alarm permit online or mail in a printable version before your alarm system is installed. If you move or stop using your alarm system, you can always cancel your permit, but you must pay your false alarm fees first.
False alarm fees in Austin are pretty generous. In a consecutive 12-month period, the first three burglary false alarms are free, the 4th-5th cost $50 each, the 6th-7th cost $75 each, and 8 or more cost $100 each. For robbery and panic alarms, the first two are free and three or more cost $100 each. Don’t have a permit? You’ll have to pay an extra $220 per false alarm response. You can also be charged for a Class C misdemeanor, which will add up to $100 to your bill.
Other Community Safety Resources Available to Dallas Residents
Austin PD App
Want to stay up-to-date with Austin’s crime scene? Download the city’s AustinPD smart phone app. It gives you access to news updates, station locations, and crime prevention info. You can file select police reports and send anonymous tips too. With the tip feature, you can include your GPS location, a text, and a photo if you wish. Plus, you can securely chat with an officer.
Austin introduced the 3-1-1 line in 2001 to limit the number of non-emergency 9-1-1 calls. It started out as a way for citizens to contact the police about non-urgent matters, but now the number also connects you with every City department. Ambassadors on the other end of the line will answer or direct your questions any time of day on every day of the year. You can get put in touch with your local police station to file a noise complaint or with the parks and recreation department to ask about pool hours. It’s a great community resource that helps the police to focus their efforts on responding to real emergencies.
Greater Austin Crime Commission
The Greater Austin Crime Commission works alongside Austin’s first responders to prevent crime. Some of their projects include sponsoring essay contests in local schools and Safe Schools Week, hosting public safety seminars for community members, donating specialty equipment to police officers to increase their safety and ability to serve the public, and marketing the APD’s 3-1-1 response system. THE GACC also advocates for an increase in the number of Austin police officers. All of their efforts lead to a safer Austin for all.
APD District Representatives
APD District Representatives are police officers are assigned to a specific neighborhood with the primary goal of bridging the gap between regional police and community members. They help patrol the area, attend neighborhood association meetings, give presentations at local schools, and help the community solve non-emergency problems like graffiti removal. The goal of this program is for neighborhoods to feel empowered and become self-reliant when it comes to crime prevention.
Neighborhood Watch or Crime Watch groups are organized by community members. Participants patrol the neighborhood, get to know one another, and host regular meetings about crime concerns and prevention. To start a group, you need to gather some core neighbors, determine the need for the group, define the geographically boundaries for the group, and then present the information to the local Austin Police Department District Representative Office. Contact your local station to see if your neighborhood already has a Crime Watch group.
Crime Prevention Tips
The APD’s website provides lots of valuable crime prevention resources. Their Burglary Prevention Tips sheet includes suggestions like installing solid doors, leaving a light on when you go on trips, lighting your home’s exterior, and keeping a list of the serial numbers on your valuables. This last part helps the police to track your stuff if it’s stolen.