Thinking about installing a home security system? In Los Angeles, that’s not a bad thought to have, especially if you live in high property crime areas like Brentwood and Fairfax. Home security systems protect your home and your family. Plus, they offer peace of mind and can even lower your home insurance bill.
Some cities don’t care which residents have a home security system, but LA does. You’ll need to purchase an alarm permit online or in-person. It costs $48 for your first year and then $31 for renewal each following year. Fail to get a permit? You could owe $1,000 in fines or face up to a year in county jail. If your alarm system is not monitored by an alarm company or other monitoring device, you do not need a permit.
Once you get the permit, display it at the main entrance of your home or apartment. Officers need to see the permit and the phone number of who responds to your alarms. So, if you choose ADT, you’ll need ADT’s contact information on the permit. In place of the permit, you can stick an alarm company decal at the front of your home. For any questions about the alarm permits in Los Angeles, visit their FAQ page here.
Consider Los Angeles’ unique quirks and weather before choosing a system and securing your permit. Below, we’ll compare our top three recommendations, ADT, Frontpoint, and Vivint, based on key Los Angeles security considerations and characteristics. We’ll look at how these companies measure up when it comes to crime, false alarms, cost, customer service, weather, and renters.
Crime Rates in Los Angeles
Large cities have high crime rates. That’s just the way it goes, and Los Angeles is no exception. Violent crime rates in LA nearly double the US average while property crime rates are on par with the national rate. Burglary actually sits well below the U.S. average but robbery more than doubles it. The difference here is that robbery includes both theft and assault. Auto theft is another growing problem in Los Angeles as well. Most of these crimes target the home.
High crime rate neighborhoods include Brentwood, Fairfax, Beverly Grover, Chesterfield Square, Elysian Park, and Rancho Park. Live in one of these areas and a security system is a sound investment.
Here’s how our top three home security picks stack up against LA crime:
- ADT – ADT is the country’s most widely known security company. Just having their logo on your window or property could be enough to scare off potential intruders. Their equipment bundles include outdoor and indoor camera options, door and window sensors, motion detectors, and garage door sensors. Outdoor equipment is especially helpful when it comes to preventing auto theft.
- Frontpoint – All of Frontpoint’s equipment operates wirelessly. Burglars cannot simply snip a wire to shut off your alarm system. Destroying it won’t get them off the hook either. The Frontpoint control panel has crash and smash protection. It recognizes when the panel has been destroyed and calls it in. Frontpoint sells window and door sensors, motion detectors and indoor, outdoor, and doorbell cameras,.
- Vivint – Vivint also offers 100% wireless systems, indoor/outdoor video cameras, sensors, and a doorbell camera for live monitoring. What gives Vivint an edge against burglars is its KwikSet Smart Locks. They’re keypad based and use secure locking technology to prevent unwanted entry. Your system will even notify you when a door is left unlocked.
False Alarm Policy
Have a false alarm? Expect to pay for it in LA. The City Council approved a substantial false alarm fee increase in July 2018. It’s an effort to recoup costs lost from false alarm responses. The fees cost more for those without an alarm permit.
Here’s a fee breakdown:
|Number of False Alarms||Fee (Permit Holder)||Fee (Un-Permitted)|
With fees like those, the burden of a false alarm falls more heavily on you. Keep that in mind while you choose a company. ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint all have built-in protections to help limit false alarms. One that all three systems share is some form of a STAY and AWAY armed mode along with a bypass function.
AWAY mode activates your interior motion sensors while STAY mode bypasses interior alarm functions. In both modes, exterior sensors like door and window sensors remain in use. Bypassing allows you to turn off sensors temporarily based on your current needs. Selecting the correct mode can help cut back on false alarms that you, your large pet, or your child may accidentally trigger.
Here are some other unique offerings to consider:
- ADT – ADT can dispatch an Alarm Response patrol officer to your home when needed. These patrol officers ride in ADT marked cars and personally verify active alarms. The goal is to reduce false alarm fees for their customers, and in LA, those fees are high. Other patrol services include random community patrols and 45 days of mail/paper relocation vacation watch.
- Frontpoint – While Frontpoint does offer guard services in some cities, this service isn’t available in LA. However, Frontpoint can visually verify an active alarm to determine whether police are needed. Plus, their GE Security equipment is tested and proven to reduce false alarms.
- Vivint – Ever head out to the car only to realize you left your keys on the counter? The simple act of walking back into your home to retrieve your keys can trigger a false alarm. That’s why Vivint rolled out a new Extended Entry Delay feature in August 2018. You get a two-minute re-entry window after your system is armed. Come inside, grab your keys, and you’ll get 90 seconds to disarm your system before it goes off again.
Customer service is key when it comes to home security. These are the people you talk to when you have a problem with your equipment or need help with an active situation. You want a company that’s invested in your family’s safety and is there when you need them.
Customer service varies widely in the Los Angeles area:
- ADT – In LA, you’ll find several local ADT authorized dealers. These dealers can set you up with an ADT monitoring contract and install the equipment same-day or next day. They’re familiar with your neighborhood, so they can give you advice that is more relevant.
- Frontpoint – Frontpoint stands out for its exceptional customer service. They even have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Sure, you’ll find some unhappy customers, but the majority are more than happy with their experience. Their DIY system can be installed in just 30 minutes too, so you don’t need to bother with scheduling installation.
- Vivint – Unfortunately, Vivint has a poor reputation when it comes to customer service. They’ve worked their way up to a B- rating from the BBB , but their reviews still aren’t great. All three local LA Vivint offices hold one star Yelp ratings. If you’re tech savvy, you may not need to rely on their service aside from billing and installation. However, if you’re new to home automation, you may struggle finding the help you need.
Home security systems range in price based on your needs and your equipment. Those living out in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood can likely have whichever system they prefer. Those living in lower-income, crime-dense areas like University Park or Montecito Heights need to choose wisely. No matter what you go with, remember, having some sort of home security system is better than nothing.
Here’s what ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint have to offer in terms of cost:
- ADT – Plans start at $20 per month for monitoring-only and range from $27.99 to $52.99 per month for equipment plus monitoring. The $27.99 Basic Security plan requires a landline connection, so it’s not available for everyone. Contracts range from 24-36 months, but you can try out ADT risk-free for six months.
- Frontpoint – Equipment packages start at $130 and go up to $1032, and monthly monitoring plans cost $34.99 to $49.99. Top tier plans include indoor and outdoor cameras with night vision, live streaming to your phone, and smart home automation control. Frontpoint uses competitive pricing, so only homeowners with high credit scores can snag the best deals. Contracts are three years for homeowners and one year for renters.
- Vivint – If you have the money and crave home automation, go with Vivint. Vivint offers two monitoring plans at $39.99 and $49.99 plus equipment financing over a 5-year term. Want to buy the equipment outright? It’ll cost you $700 to $1800 depending on what you want. You can save money by using the equipment to self-monitor your home, but you’ll lose out on the mobile app and 24/7 tech support. Installation costs about $50.
Weather & Natural Disasters
It might not seem like it, but poor weather and home security go hand in hand. In, Los Angeles weather concerns include earthquakes, wildfires, and tsunamis. While it’s hard to protect your home if a wildfire does pass through, you can keep it protected during a precautionary evacuation. Criminals target homes in evacuated areas because no one is around to stop them. No one except for a home security system.
Earthquakes are another concern in LA with Californians experiencing 100 to 150 earthquakes each year. Most don’t cause any damage, but three to four per year are of magnitude 5 or greater. These can cause power outages and evacuations.
In terms of weather, all three systems deliver. Frontpoint, ADT, and Vivint all offer wireless systems that operate off cell towers and have back-up batteries. They’ll keep your home secure even if power goes out. Plus, even just having their cameras outside of your home can help deter potential looters. All three provide remote app access with certain packages too. These keep you connected to your home while you’re away. Frontpoint’s system even alerts you when power comes back on, so you know when to return.
Los Angeles Renters
Renters rule Los Angeles. They occupy more than half of residences in LA. This slides LA into fourth place when looking at cities with the highest percentage of renters in the US. When it comes to home security, renters don’t have the same freedoms as homeowners. Renters need systems that require no drilling, use internet or a cell signal to operate, and that can be moved without facing a penalty.
See how ADT, Frontpoint, and Vivint cater to renters:
- ADT – Their upper tier monitoring plans support wireless systems, so installation is more rental-friendly, but the equipment costs more. You’ll also need professional installation. Contracts last 36 months, but you can take the system with you. ADT even offers a 25% discount on additional sensors. This is great if you’re moving to a larger place with more doors or windows.
- Frontpoint – Our top home security system for renters offers 100% wireless systems. Their self-installation doesn’t require any drill holes either. Instead, all wall components stick to the wall. It’s easy to move equipment too. Frontpoint will send you a free mover’s kit with packaging and new adhesive. Best of all, there’s no moving fee. Choose a one or three-year contract.
- Vivint – Vivint isn’t very renter friendly. Their professional installation takes two to three hours and the technician will drill holes in the walls. Moving? You can take your system with you, but it will cost you. Professional uninstallation costs $129 and re-installation at your new place costs another $129. However, military moves are free. Monthly payments and terms do stay the same, so you won’t have to extend your contract.
Final Thoughts on ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint
To us, it’s obvious that Frontpoint and ADT are the better options for Los Angeles homeowners and renters. Frontpoint is the best option for the city’s high renter population and ADT has excellent local customer service. ADT’s patrol officer services also give them an edge when it comes to LA’s hefty false alarm fees.
Although Vivint didn’t check all of the LA boxes, it’s still a solid choice for anyone willing to pay for home automation. Dealing with their customer support might be a hassle, but again, if you’re tech-savvy, you won’t really need them. Plus, their Kwikset smart locks, although not renter-friendly, provide extra security and convenience.
If you aren’t satisfied with ADT, Vivint, or Frontpoint, you have other options. Here a few highly rated local companies worth considering:
- California Security Pro
- Los Angeles CCTV Security Cameras
- Tri-Net Security Solutions
- Security Camera Installation Los Angeles Tron
What Else Does LA Have to Offer in Terms of Home Security?
Home security systems all rely on police and firefighter response. In Los Angeles, the LYPD and LAFD do their best to keep residents and tourists safe. The city as a whole supports initiatives to keep you educated on security-related matters too.
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)
About 10,000 police officers serve the city of LA and its 4 million residents. They work across 18 divisions and 10 bureaus with 21 police stations. Three teams of Basic Car officers patrol your neighborhood, so it’s covered 24/7. These officers take calls and help prevent crime. Plus, they stay with your neighborhood, so they get to know the neighbors and specific problems that could come up.
Other divisions within the department include robbery-homicide, juvenile, gang and narcotics, commercial crimes, forensic science, technical investigation, transit services, and information technology. The force uses 6,000 cars, 2 police boats, 26 helicopters, 3 planes, 40 horses, and 22 dogs to prevent crime and enforce the law.
Historically, the LAPD, the third largest municipal police department in the nation, is understaffed and underfunded. They have roughly one police officer for every 426 residents while similar large cities have around a 1:200 ratio. This makes ADT Security’s patrol officers all the more valuable in case of a break-in.
LAPD crime prevention specialists also run Neighborhood Watch groups. Watch groups are open to anyone and can cover a whole block, business area, or apartment building. Members look out for each other and report suspicious activity. This includes strange noises, screaming for help, property being taken out of a house, cars moving slowly without lights, abandoned cars, or strangers talking to children.
Block captains serve as the point person of a Watch group. They receive tips and information from their neighborhood patrol officer. The information gets passed along to group members through meetings. Some groups do more than just hold meetings and keep their eyes out for crime. They adopt local parks and pick up litter or paint over graffiti. Your local Watch group is also a great resource when it comes to home security decisions.
Speak with your local police station to see if there’s already a neighborhood watch group in your area. If not, you can always start your own.
Local Los Angeles Fire Departments
In LA, you get not one but two fire departments. Los Angeles the city is home to one of the largest municipal fire departments in the US. It unofficially goes by the names Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) or LA City Fire. The other fire department, the Los Angeles County Fire Department, serves the county and surrounding cities.
The LAFD operates 106 local stations, 92 fire engines, 42 fire trucks, 8 rescue squads, 1 heavy rescue vehicle, 8 tankers, and 140 ambulances. Specialty equipment includes HAZMAT units, airport crash tenders, and fireboats. Roughly 3,500 people work for the LAFD and the department has a $600 million budget.
In 2014, the mayor campaigned on a promise of open city data and improved Fire Department response times. This led to the creation of FireStat, which shows updated response metrics based on neighborhood and fire station. The metrics measure from the moment a call comes in until the services arrive on scene.
Currently, the LAFD doesn’t meet the national standard of 6 minutes for a response. For 2020, EMS response averaged 6:28, non-EMS was 6:15, critical ALS was 5:36, and structural fire was 4:53. Since 2016, response times have improved for all categories aside from critical ALS, where they’ve remained stagnant. This shows that the LAFD is well on its way to that 6-minute mark.
Web-Based Los Angeles Resources
Check out the following sites to learn more about Los Angeles safety. You’ll find helpful information that can help you decide what home security system you want.
Visit Ready LA for disaster awareness information. The website covers what to do in case of an earthquake, fire, severe weather and flooding, extreme heat, extreme cold, power blackouts, and more. Follow their tips to make sure your family and your home are prepared in case of a disaster.
Earthquake Watch & Early Warnings
In 2018, LA partnered with Early Warning Labs to bring early earthquake warnings to city officials. These warnings detect an earthquake’s start, estimate the severity, and get out a warning before it reaches full intensity. This gives people and cities time to duck, cover, and hold, slow down taxiing planes, stop trains, shut off nuclear reactors, and prevent cars from entering bridges or tunnels before the quake starts.
The city’s Earthquake Watch website also sends out updates on the latest local earthquakes. The map shows earthquake magnitudes, times, and location. You can also check out historical data on past quakes to see how often they occur near your house, children’s school, or workplace.
Get up-to-date notifications about emergencies and disasters by enrolling in NotifyLA, Los Angeles’ mass notification system. Landlines automatically receive their calls, but you’ll need to register your cell phone or email address. NotifyLA uses geo-mapping, so you’ll only get relevant notifications based on your location. Messages that you could receive include early warning notices for storms, disaster notifications, evacuation notifications, public health notices, and public safety notices. Sign up for NotifyLA here. If you have kids and they have phones, you should sign them up too.