Peace of mind, safety, and convenience. These are just some of the many benefits of investing in a home security system. We’ve spent some time familiarizing ourselves with Houston’s unique qualities and various city regulations and departments to come up with our top three picks for home security. Below, we’ll explain why you need a system, what types to consider, and ways Houston goes above and beyond to help keep its citizens safe.
Who Needs Home Security in Houston?
Arguably, it’s a good idea for anyone living in Houston to have a home security system. Annual property crime incidents in Houston average around 100,000 per year. Vehicle theft is especially common here as it more than doubles the national rate. If you park in the street or on a street-facing driveway, invest in outdoor security cameras. Vivint, ADT, and Frontpoint all have great options, but ADT’s outdoor cameras tend to cost about $50 dollars less.
Property crime isn’t the only problem Houston faces. Roughly 24,000 violent crimes occur here each year as well. A big part of that statistic comes from an alarming rate of robbery. In Houston, the robbery rate per 100,000 residents is four times the national rate. The Houston Police Robbery Division and Crime Stoppers work together to try to catch culprits and reduce the number of robberies. Want to keep your home protected? Displaying a recognizable security system decal on your window or having outdoor cameras can help scare off potential intruders.
Depending on where you live within Houston, you probably have a different perspective on crime. Certain Houston neighborhoods are more crime dense than others. For example, in Houston’s Third Ward, the intersection of Dowling and McGowen made Neighborhood Scout’s 2018 list of most dangerous areas in the United States. It’s located near Texas Southern University, which has a high violent crime rate and a lot of theft. Here, you have a 1 in 13 chance of falling victim to a crime. If you’re a student living near campus in an apartment, you should consider a home security system. Frontpoint, with its one-year contract option and wall-friendly DIY installation, is an excellent choice. Plus, you can move your Frontpoint system with you for free if you switch apartments in the future or graduate and move to a new town.
Other high property crime areas include Sunnyside, Travis Street and Elgin Street, Clinton Drive and Waco Street, Leeland and Scott Street, Tidwell Area, and North Main Street and Morris Street.
What are the Best Home Security Systems in Houston?
We’ve narrowed down our top three home security picks for Houston to the three below:
Are you a fan of the tried and true? Consider ADT Security. This 140-year-old company offers five different plans. Two require a landline while the three upper-tier packages use cell towers. Not only are cell-linked systems more reliable, but they’re also more realistic. Most people just don’t use landlines anymore. All packages also require a 24- or 36-month contract.
At a minimum, ADT supplies customers with the following equipment:
- A wired or wireless control panel
- A base system
- 1 motion sensor
- Wireless sensors
- A wireless remote
- A backup battery
- 1 yard sign and window decals*
*Did you know that just having a recognizable home security logo on your property can actually deter crime? A research team from Stanford interviewed convicted criminals and found that 60% of burglars avoided homes with visible signs of a home security system.
Other ADT perks include its pet-friendly motion sensors and ADT Pulse App with live streaming video feed and home automation control. You can add on environmental sensors, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, entry sensors, video cameras, and keychain remote controls if desired.
Want to live a more convenient life? Vivint might be right for you–if you can afford it. This home security company features innovative equipment with home automation compatibility. Pair your Vivint system with an Amazon Echo or Google Home or other smart device to claim control over your smart lights, smart thermostat, and home security system.
Foundational Vivint equipment includes:
- 6 smart sensors*
- 1 centralized touchscreen panel
- 2 Google Home Minis
*Choose between door/window sensors, motion detectors, glass break detectors, flood/freeze sensors, and smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. Live in a flood plain near the river? Pick at least one flood sensor.
Other Vivint equipment includes a doorbell camera, keyring-compatible remote control, security cameras, smart thermostat, and smart locks. With smart locks, you can leave your keys at home. Instead, enter your front door using your chosen key code. Assign a code to each family member to receive notifications when they arrive home. Live within a two-mile radius of your kid’s public school? Invest in a smart lock. As soon as they walk home and put in their code, you’ll get notified through the Vivint App. Plus, you won’t have to worry about your kids forgetting a key.
Frontpoint sits in the middle of ADT and Vivint. All of their GE equipment is innovative and smart-home compatible like Vivint, but their price point and service align more with ADT. Their English- and Spanish-speaking customer service agents go above and beyond to keep customers informed and happy. Plus, they have an A+ rating from the BBB and they’re very upfront about their prices, which isn’t always the case with other companies.
All Frontpoint packages include the following equipment:
- 1 hub
- 1 keypad panel
- 2 door/window sensors
- 1 motion sensor
Optional Frontpoint equipment includes glass break sensors, smoke/heat sensors, wireless indoor/outdoor cameras, a Wi-Fi doorbell camera, recessed door sensors, flood sensors, garage door sensors, smart locks, smart light bulbs, and carbon monoxide sensors.
How Much Does Houston Home Security Cost?
You don’t have to break your budget to feel safe in your own home. In Houston, home security companies offer a number of different plans at varying price points. Costs you need to consider are: installation fees, equipment costs, monthly monitoring fees, alarm permits, and false alarm fees.
Professional installation has its perks, but more often than not, you’ll have to pay for it. Vivint and ADT both charge an installation fee. The only way out of it is through a promotion advertised on their website or at a local authorized dealer. Vivint charges up to $200 for installation while ADT charges $99 to $199. During installation, the technician makes recommendations about where to place the equipment and whether he or she thinks you should add extra sensors or cameras. Don’t want to deal with the hassle of professional installation? Go with Frontpoint. They offer DIY installation that takes just 30 minutes.
Some companies rent you their equipment while others have you buy it outright. Costs vary greatly based on what type of equipment you want and how you plan to pay for it. With Vivint, equipment bundles start at $700 and go up to $1800. Paying for equipment up front can get you out of a monthly contract, which is a nice perk. However, if you can’t swing the equipment cost, you’ll need a 600+ credit score to qualify for Vivint’s Monthly Flex Pay. Under this plan, you can pay off a portion of the equipment cost each month over your five-year contract. Frontpoint’s equipment starts at just $100, but you must sign on for monitoring and a three-year contract to secure this low price. Not interested in owning equipment? ADT loans you their equipment and includes the cost in your monthly payment.
Monitoring costs vary based on your equipment and other special services. For example, monthly monitoring costs for ADT’s two landline-based packages starts at $27.99. Want a system that uses cell towers? ADT prices range from $48.99 to $58.99 per month, Vivint charges $39.99 to $49.99 per month (plus equipment financing), and Frontpoint charges $34.99 to $49.99 per month (plus equipment).
If your alarm system sends burglar, holdup, panic, or duress alarm signals (ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint all do), you need to apply for a City of Houston Alarm Permit. Permits cost $50 for residential alarms. You must renew your permit each year. Your permit can be taken away if you exceed seven false alarms in a given year.
In 2014, 96% of alarm calls in Houston were false alarms. They were triggered by user error, system malfunction, improper installation, or weather conditions. This is a serious problem because it wastes police and fire department resources and distracts the departments from real emergencies. To recoup costs, Houston charges a false alarm fee. Permitted alarm users get three free false burglar alarms each permit year. The 4th and 5th cost $50 each, the 6th and 7th cost $75 each, and 8+ cost $100 each. You also get one free false panic alarm per permit year. The 2nd costs $136.83, the 3rd costs $273.68, the 4th costs $410.51, 5+ cost $547.35 each.
Don’t have a permit? Houston police will still respond to alarm calls, but you’ll face heftier false alarm fees. They come out to $114.03 for every false burglar alarm and at least $301.04 for every false panic alarm.
Learn more about false alarm prevention in Houston from the City of Houston Burglar Alarm Administration.
Can a Home Security System Protect My Home from Houston’s Weather?
Yes, it can! Houston’s extreme weather conditions can’t go unaddressed. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought devastating winds and flooding that greatly damaged the city. In Houston, tornadoes and tropical storms threaten you and your home too. Now, a home security system can’t stop a hurricane, but it can help safeguard your home against looting and other forms of environmental damage.
While many chose to evacuate Houston prior to or during Hurricane Harvey, others chose to take advantage. These people looted shopping centers, office buildings, homes, and apartments, taking food, money, and valuables with them. A big reason they got away with it was because no one was around, power was out, and police were preoccupied with the storm. That’s where home security can step in. Wireless systems sold by ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint all communicate via cell towers, so they work even if your internet or landline goes out. Plus, these systems come with back-up batteries, so the central hub and equipment still work in case of a power outage.
Frontpoint’s system even offers a little more. Its battery lasts longer and sends power loss alerts to your smart device. You’ll receive one alert if the power goes out for more than 15 minutes and then another alert when power returns. This is helpful if you’ve left town temporarily because of a power outage.
Flooding is another problem in Houston to look out for. It precipitates around 100 days per year for a total of around 49 inches of rainfall. As result, flash flood warnings are a common occurrence. Areas along the San Jacinto River are especially prone to flooding. All three of our top picks for home security provide flood sensors. Install them on the wall in your basement, near pipes, or in other areas prone to flooding. The sensors alert you as soon water starts to pool in your home. This heads-up gives you time to stop the leak, collect your valuables, and start removing the water before too much damage is done.
Along with extreme weather, Houston also experiences extreme heat. An average of 102 days per year reaches or exceeds 90 °F. Just over 3 days per year reach or exceed 100 °F. On hot days like these, forgetting to turn your AC on or off could cost you. Vivint, ADT, and Frontpoint all offer add-on smart thermostats. They give you remote control over your home’s temperature through their respective apps. Forgot that your dog was at home during your workday? Bump up your AC a little as you wait for your next meeting. Leave your AC on full blast before heading out of town? Turn it off or down remotely to save on your electric bill.
Are There Local Home Security Companies in Houston?
National brands offer a lot in terms of equipment and support, but shopping local might work best for your home. You’ll find a number of local security companies in Houston to choose from. Plus, ADT has two local Houston offices and Vivint has one local office if you’d like to speak with one of their representatives in person.
Here four highly rated local home security options for the Houston area:
How Do Houston’s Police and Fire Departments Stack Up?
The Houston Police Department (HPD) is the largest municipal police department in all of Texas, but it’s still fairly small. It consists of only 5,100 uniformed police officers, which is roughly half of the police force of Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the small force struggles with response times. HPD officers want to respond in at least 5 minutes for life-threatening calls, but they haven’t done that since 2014. House broken into while you aren’t home? Police response times for these lower priority calls average out to about an hour.
So, what does this mean for you? It means that having a home security system is all the more important. It also makes security companies like ADT all the more valuable. ADT offers Alarm Response Services. This add-on plan gives you access to ADT patrol officers. These officers respond to alarm signals, respond to calls for help, and come whenever a panic or fire alarm goes off at your house. In a city where police response times are slow, this service is invaluable.
Uniformed officers and other police employees work across 51 divisions. These divisions include several that work to assist property crime victims and reduce property-related crimes: Burglary & Theft, Robbery, and Emergency Communications. Given the high rate of auto theft and robbery in Houston, these crimes are of a high priority.
Working alongside police to keep Houston safe is the City of Houston Fire Department (HFD). Their 4,000 employees supply the city with fire protection and EMS services. The HFD operates 87 fire engines, 32 ladder trucks, 5 tower trucks, 3 heavy rescue vehicles, 36 advanced life support ambulances, 56 basic life support ambulances, 3 HAZMAT apparatuses, 12 airport crash tenders, 11 wildland fire engines, 1 helicopter, 1 fireboat, 13 rescue boats, and 3 light and air units.
As of 2016, the HFD’s average response time was 5.98 minutes. This includes both fire-related and EMS-related calls. Many cities use an eight-minute standard to assess their fire response times, so Houston is well below this limit. How are they so fast? There are 94 fire stations spread throughout the city. Before help comes through, you need to call it in. Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors from a monitored home security company like ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint detect gas or smoke quickly. If you’re not home, they’ll call it in, reducing the amount of damage to your home.
What Else Does the City Do to Keep Me Safe?
Keep Houston SAFE
This citywide public safety initiative encourages residents, businesses, and the HPD to work together to prevent crime. Take the first step as a Houston resident by reading through available crime prevention materials provided by the city. Documents are available in up to seven different languages. Tips from their Burglary Prevention for Your Home Brochure include, “All exterior doors should be solid core or of metal construction” and “Don’t tell a stranger that your neighbor is not at home or volunteer any personal information about your neighbor.”
Once you come face to face with how many and how often crimes occur in your area, you’ll be more likely to take preventative measures. That, along with transparency, is the thought behind Houston’s crime mapping initiative. The police use a third-party crime-mapping website, CrimeReports, to keep citizens informed about local crime. Filter by date range, days of the week, time range, and incident type. Zoom in on the map to find your house, kid’s school, or your workplace.
Community Crime Map is another, more analytical crime map option that also gets information directly from the HPD. Search using your specific address, date range, crime type, and precinct area. The website will also generate charts and graphs to show you how often and what type of crimes occur based on your address.
City News & Alerts
Houston’s AlertHouston emergency communication system will keep you informed on the goings on in the city. Sign up online to receive email, text message, voice call or mobile app push notifications about weather conditions and ways to keep your family safe. Request to receive alerts from up to five physical addresses–like work, home, school, etc.
The Greater Harris County also has its own 9-1-1 emergency notification system. This system focuses mainly on neighborhood emergencies. Potential messages may relate to chemical spills or police activity. Alerts come in by phone, text, or email. All landline phones are automatically opted into the GHC911 alerts. Register a cell phone or email address here.
Department of Neighborhoods
Want to give back to Houston and make it a safer, nicer place to live? Join forces with the city’s Department of Neighborhoods. They aim to deliver services to all Houston residents that reduce blight, resolve concerns, and make people feel connected to the community. Since urban blight often welcomes in property and violent crime, making a city cleaner and happier can actually help with crime reduction. Other efforts include their youth programs aimed at stopping gang involvement, preventing juvenile delinquency, and promoting education and volunteering.