It sounds like a security dealer or system integrator’s marketing dream come true. One of the major cable channels, Discovery, is repeatedly showing an eight-episode, hour-long program for months that encourages homeowners to buy security systems, and it doesn’t cost dealers anything!

Called “It Takes a Thief,” the reality-style show follows two reformed burglars as they test the security of a different home each week.

“The effect of the show has already been fantastic, because it really is the first multi-episode show I have ever seen that deals specifically with home security,” asserted Chris Swallen, who works in engineered system sales for Scarsdale Security Systems Inc., Scarsdale, N.Y. The company is number 70 on the latest SDM 100 list of the largest security dealers.

Based on a similar television show in Britain, the program follows a format in which one of the two burglar/hosts is videotaped while breaking into a subject’s home while the homeowners are taped watching the live video of the break-in from a remote location.

They then meet the burglar and learn what they can do to make their home safer. After the “security makeover” of the home, the burglars are videotaped attempting another break-in at a time unknown to the homeowners. After the second attempt, the homeowners are reunited with the burglars and given their “security report card.”

“The concept of the series is showing how homeowners react to an intrusion in their premises and what you can do to better protect yourself,” Swallen explained. “Its power lies in that the whole show has an effect of makes people think a lot more about home security. That include a number of different elements, one of which could be electronic alarm systems, which can be a very effective deterrent in home intrusion.”

Scarsdale Security becomes involved during the makeover. The company installs security systems in the homes that require them on the 40-episode series, and Swallen is on location.

“I need to make sure our installation is executed to perfection, and that we meet the timeline and also have interaction with the owners and that they clearly understand how the electronic alarm system operates,” he declared.

“Typically, it takes a two-man crew about six to seven hours to install the system,” Swallen estimated. “We know about seven days before a shoot occurs. It’s very structured how these shoots work. We get a two-page call sheet about three days before installation that lays out the exact activities of that day. It really flows well and we’ve been able to get into the hang of how this type of production works.”

Because most job on the shows are retrofit, wireless sensors are used throughout the house. “The core components of the system are hardwired, such as the keypads on the wall and sirens, but the detection devices such as magnetic contacts on doors and window and motion detectors now available as a wireless technology. These provide great solutions in finished homes because they can be installed economically and with very little disruption to the construction of the home, such as having to make unnecessary holes, and it also speeds installation.”

Systems for the home are being supplied by Honeywell Security and Custom Electronics, one of whose employees for a company Honeywell owns recommended Scarsdale.

“It was a field rep for ADI, one of their systems engineers, who was an acquaintance of a gentleman named Frank Santamorena,” Swallen related. Santamorena of Security Experts, Staatsburg, N.Y., is the series’ security adviser. “He asked about our interest to participate in the show and provide electronic detection systems on a certain number of episodes. He came to a number of companies in the metro New York area looking for a large company that had a good reputation in the industry. We met with him a couple of times and gave him a tour of the facility and committed to the series.”

Other companies participating in the series include Aiphone Corp. and Optex Security Products. Scarsdale is receiving compensation for its installations.

“We negotiated a favorable rate schedule to put these in and keep them on target with what they are trying to accomplish in terms of overall budget,” Swallen explained. “Generally, we’re passing on what our costs are. A lot of things are being factored into that, but more or less, we’re covering expenses.

“The show will expose people to our name, and to those viewers who are in the New York area, the mention in the credits is a big benefit for us,” he insisted. “The early indications of ratings for the first two shows have been very good.” The series ordinarily airs at 10 p.m. Wednesday on the Discovery channel. Many of the episodes in February and March will feature Scarsdale’s installations.

The systems installed are all monitored by Scarsdale’s own UL-listed central station. No fire protection is included in the systems installed for the show.

“In a couple of cases, we have had discussions with owners who have decided other elements should be introduced into their alarm system,” Swallen revealed. “There’s no doubt in my mind that additional refinements will be made to these systems by the homeowners.” That means continuing business.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that at the end of two days of shooting, people have been through a myriad of emotions, but in every home, the final results of these makeovers is that the people are truly appreciative of what they’ve learned from this process and grateful and thankful to the producers of the show and trades that execute the makeovers,” Swallen concluded. “I’m at every shoot, and I can’t think of one where I didn’t get a personal thanks from homeowners and sometimes a hug!”