The security and safety of Americans at work have never been of more concern. At the same time, businesses and institutions have heightened concerns about criminal loss and business interruption. In this context, Security Distributing & Marketing set out to measure the industry’s progress in providing security measures to America’s workplace.

In a series of articles, SDM reports the results of the first-ever research asking Americans about electronic security measures at work. To achieve simplicity and consistency, SDM’s survey asked first whether six different security measures were used at work: burglar alarms, video surveillance, door locks, card access/keypads, ID badges and fire alarms. Second, the survey asked which security measures respondents would like to see added at work. These results, cross referenced by demographic segments, provide a gauge of the present and a benchmark for the future.

Beginning with Alarms

All security is local, and so is demand for burglar alarms. Across the U.S. the penetration of burglar alarms at work varies significantly among the top 30 metropolitan areas. Burglar alarm survey data, along with U.S. Census data and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, take on new meaning when presented along with the perspectives of dealers who install the alarms, and officials in their neighborhoods.

To conduct the SDM 2004 Consumer Study: Workplace & Home Security, SDM – through its Market Research Division, mailed surveys to 20,000 U.S. households in late December 2003. The household panel was selected to conform to the latest United States Census data for the nine geographical divisions; within each division by market size, age of head of household, annual household income, and household size. By a cut-off date in February 2004, there were 13,997 usable returns, resulting in a 70 percent response rate. Definition of property crime: the offenses of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. A word about city comparisons: SDM’s city areas are drawn by Nielsen Designated Market Areas. With this methodology, the city area is defined by the area a television signal reaches.

No. 1 in Business alarms:

Hartford-New Haven Hartford-New Haven, Conn., is far from the biggest city in the United States; on a list of the 30 largest metropolitan areas by population, it comes in at number 27. It’s certainly not the most dangerous: according to the FBI, the property crime rate is 3,108.8 crimes per 100,000 residents, putting the area squarely in the lower third among the largest cites. And it’s not the richest, though its median income of $43,752 a year, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, puts it high on the list of the 30 largest cities.

But in one area at least, the town packs a punch. SDM’s 2004 Consumer Study: Workplace & Home Security revealed that there are more burglar alarms in Hartford-New Haven businesses than in any other area of the country. Not only that, but the 68.3 percent of workers who reported there is a burglar alarm in their workplace was nearly 10 percentage points above any other metropolitan area of the country.

“Consumers are much more security conscious than they’ve ever been,” says Connecticut Burglar and Fire Alarm Association president Rick Weiss, CPP, who has been doing business in Connecticut for 20 years. More businesses than ever regard burglar alarms as an essential piece of office equipment, right after computers and phones, he says.

“It’s on the list of things to get when a company is ready to set up or to move,” Weiss says. “They realize there is a need, that police can’t be everywhere. They know a burglar alarm will give them an edge.”

There is a sizable security community in the area; a phone book search turns up 152 listed companies in New Haven and 197 in Hartford. Whatever the company, residents like Lynn Fredricksen, spokesperson for the New Haven Chamber of Commerce, are convinced that security is an important part of a business, to protect not just equipment but people.

“It’s just good business to be cautious and protect your investment,” Fredricksen says. “I think most people think first and foremost about the safety of their employees.”

Small establishments make up the business community, with about 80 percent of the 1,700 businesses in the New Haven Chamber of Commerce having less than 10 employees, Fredrickson notes.

“I think anyone who has a small business would want an alarm,” she says.

In Hartford, small businesses make up about 65 percent of the economy, Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Marie Vanilli said. Insurance and accounting companies make up a large part of the economy.

Gary LaPlant, president and chief operating officer of Sonitrol Security Systems of Hartford, said his company’s success in the area is largely due to a local approach to business.

“If you treat the customer like your best friend you’ll never go wrong,” LaPlant says. His franchise company has a local, rather than a national, central station.

Established in Hartford in 1971, Sonitrol of Hartford has roots in the community. “We’re entrenched in our market. I think it makes a difference,” he says.

In Hartford-New Haven, wealth correlates with more workplace alarms. At $43,752, the community’s median income ranks high on the list of the country’s 30 largest cities. Most workers are white collar: on average, about 37 percent of workers describe their jobs as “managerial, professional or related occupations” and another roughly 30 percent describe their jobs and “sales and office,” according to the 2000 Census. Service jobs make up another 10 to 15 percent.

“People can afford a security system” for their business, Fredricksen says.

Hartford-New Haven,


• Population rank: 27

• Property crime rate: 3,108.8 crimes per 100,000 residents

• Percentage of white-collar workers: 67

• Percentage of burglar alarms in the workplace: 68.3

Crime Rate Drives Alarm Usage in Miami

Home to vacation houses and retirees, famous beaches and a large immigrant population, Miami, Fla., is portrayed on TV’s Crime Scene Investigation as a hotbed of cop drama and has been labeled by rapper Will Smith as the ideal vacation spot. It also now has the distinction of ranking as No. 2 in SDM’s 2004 Consumer Study: Workplace & Home Security, with 58.8 percent of our survey respondents reporting alarm systems in their workplaces.

Among SDM’s top three cities ranked by percentage of people reporting alarms in the workplace, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale has the largest population, the highest crime rate, and the lowest median income.

“I believe that because of the higher-than-average crime rate we have in Miami, most businesses recognize the fact that having an alarm system is an important part of protecting their employees and assets,” says Michael Smith, sales and marketing director at Integrated Security Systems, Miami.

According to the FBI, the property crime rate in Miami is 6,054.4 crimes per 100,000 residents, one of the higher crime rate cities in the nation.

“Miami’s high growth rate is certainly a contributing factor in crime. Additionally, we have a lot of transient people coming into South Florida. South Florida has also become a focal point of immigration from the Caribbean and Latin American countries, thus adding to our soaring growth rate,” Smith says.

According to the 2000 Census, 59.5 percent of city of Miami residents describe themselves as foreign-born, compared with 11.1 percent nationwide. Seventy-five percent of families speak a language other than English at home.

Miami ranks as No. 17 in population on SDM’s list of 30 metropolitan areas in which alarm systems in the workplace were tracked by the study.

Miami also has the lowest percentage of white-collar workers among cities studied: according to the 2000 Census, 23.8 percent describe themselves as working in a management or professional occupation, and 26.2 percent describe their jobs as sales or office jobs. The number of service-sector workers is highest, as well, at 22.1 percent.

To sell workplace alarms in this quickly growingly, highly diverse area, Smith says his company works to build relationships with his customers and maintains relationships within the industry by staying involved with organizations like ASIS International.

“Our goal is to help potential prospects understand the importance of security and educate them along the way, including helping them with their security design in our in-house CAD Department,” he says.

Miami-Ft.Lauderdale, Florida

• Population rank: 17

• Property crime rate: 6,054 crimes per 100,000 residents

• Percentage of white collar workers: 50

• Percentage of burglar alarms in the workplace: 58.8

Business Alarms Are part of Charlotte’s Growth

Charlotte, N.C., takes home the bronze with 54.4 percent of workers reporting burglar alarms in the workplace, based on SDM’s 2004 Consumer Study: Workplace & Home Security. Like Hartford-New Haven, Charlotte is a small, comparatively wealthy city with a high number of workplace alarms. Also like Hartford-New Haven, alarm company owners cast their city’s success in terms of a solid local security community.

“We tend to believe that Charlotte is well-represented by good, local competition. Given that we have the number of providers in the market probably ensures that every commercial project is approached with the need and benefits of having a system,” says Wylie Fox, vice president of sales and finance, Sonitrol Security Service.

With a total population of 540,828 according to the 2000 Census, Charlotte is one of the smallest cities on our list, ranked just below Hartford-New Haven. In a city that size, a phone book search for security companies yields more than 400 businesses.

Both Hartford-New Haven and Charlotte could be called wealthy cities in terms of median income. At $48,975 a year, Charlotte workers have one of the highest median incomes of the 30 cities in SDM’s study. Hartford-New Haven workers rank just slightly lower in median income; however, Miami workers make less than half as much money, yet report a greater percentage of workplace alarms.

Yet, Charlotte is a growing city, which may influence the high penetration of alarms. From 1990 to 1998, Charlotte grew by 85,079 people, a 20.3 percent increase. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the city grew by another six percent from 2000-2002. “We have been fortunate that growth in commercial construction has occurred in every quadrant of the city and county, as well as in the inner city,” Fox says.

That growing workforce, like many of the cities high on our list, is made up of more than half white-collar workers. About 67 percent of workers in Charlotte have white-collar jobs: 38.1 percent work in “management, professional, and related occupations” and 29.2 percent are sales and office workers. Another 12.7 percent are in the service industry, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

“Property crime has not decreased and this, coupled with workplace safety and internal theft concerns, have more than likely caused decision-makers to ensure these threats are being addressed,” Fox says.

Local government in Charlotte has put a fine structure on false-alarm offenders. Mecklenburg County does require alarm holders to have a permit and imposes a fine after three false alarms. One way that Fox addresses concerns about false alarms is to report the number of apprehensions per alarm.

“We have had 45 apprehensions year to-date and this message of ‘we catch the bad guy’ resonates with not only prospects, but the police,” he says.

Charlotte, North Carolina

• Population rank: 28

• Property crime rate: not available

• Percentage of white-collar workers: 67

• Percentage of burglar alarms in the workplace: 54.4

New York – Los Angeles – Chicago: How the Big 3 Rank in Alarm Usage

The country’s largest cities returned similar results in SDM’s 2004 Consumer Study: Workplace & Home Security. While they rank the highest in population and have the most distinct characters in our national imagination, all three rank near the national average for our study’s top-30 cities list – with 45 percent of survey respondents who report having alarm systems in their workplaces.

Among Los Angeles workers, 49 percent report having an alarm system at work. Among New Yorkers, 43 percent, and among Chicagoans, 42 percent say they work at a business with an alarm.

Still, the city of Angels only ranks at No. 9 overall on our list of the 30 largest metropolitan areas by population, behind smaller cities like Hartford-New Haven, Conn. and Atlanta, Ga.

“I would have thought the percentage would have been higher for L.A.,” says George Gunning, past president of the Greater Los Angeles Alarm Association. “But based on 250,000 businesses, that’s about 120,000 alarm systems. That’s a large number.”

He said one way the Los Angeles area differs from New York and Chicago is in the size and layout of its businesses.

“L.A. businesses are larger in square feet and tend to be stand-alone buildings,” he says. These factors tend to make L.A. businesses more likely to equip their buildings with alarms. Businesses in other cities may feel more secure because their neighbors are closer, he says.

“Maybe one business says, ‘I am protected with an alarm on both sides; I don’t need [an alarm].’”

Gunning says a smaller police department may make L.A. businesses feel an alarm is more crucial.

“More alarms are sold in L.A. businesses because they will need more deterrent [due to] the small size of the police force,” he says.

A few months ago, the L.A. alarm industry came to a compromise with the police department, which was originally determined to institute a policy of no response without verification. The city now has a stricter fine structure in place.

In L.A., wealth and number of alarms rank similarly. Despite the glamour of the Sunset Strip and the red carpet, L.A.’s solid $39,139 a year median income puts the city at No. 12 of 30. It ranks at No. 9 of 30 when ranked by workplace alarms.

The nation’s three largest cities are also very similar in the percentage of workers who define themselves as white collar.

In L.A., white-collar workers make up 60.9 percent of the workforce, with 34.2 percent in management, professional, and related occupations and 26.7 percent in sales and office occupations. Another 16.0 percent are employed in service professions.

In the City that Never Sleeps, white-collar workers make up 64.2 percent of the workforce.

Ranked by percentage of burglar alarms, the 43 percent of workers reporting an alarm puts New York at No. 17 on our list.

“That’s low,” says Robert Kleinman of AFA Protective Systems Inc., Syosset, N.Y. “I would think it would be higher. Just walking around, I would say it would be more like two-thirds. Almost every tenant who we install a fire alarm for has a burglar alarm. I’ve seen a big increase in CCTV and card access.”

While higher property crime rates didn’t necessarily mean a higher percentage of workplace alarms in our study, it is notable that the property crime rate in New York is 2,256 crimes per 100,000 residents, which is lower than L.A.’s property crime rate of 3,096 crimes per 100,000 residents, according to the FBI.

The percentage of survey respondents noting they have alarms in their workplaces in New York is six percentage points lower than in LA.

In a comparison between these two cities, median incomes don’t seem to have much influence on the incidence of alarms in the workplace. New Yorkers’ median income is $39,285 a year, which is only slightly higher than L.A.’s median income of $39,139, according to the Census.

Overall, that figure isn’t enough to make the top 10 cities according to income; the Big Apple comes in at No.11.

While Chicago may be located in the middle of the country, our survey placed its percentage of workplace burglar alarms lowest among the three largest cities. With 42.3 percent of workers reporting alarms, Chicago ranks at No. 20 overall.

In this case, median income is a good indicator of number of alarms: of the three largest cities, Chicago’s median income is $38,803 a year, putting it a few spots behind New York and L.A. and No.15 overall.

Famous as the Second City, Chicago now ranks third in population, after New York and L.A., with a total of 2,896,016 people.

White collar workers make up 60.5 percent of the workforce. Management and professional jobs make up 33.5 percent of that number, and sales and office jobs account for the other 27 percent. Service jobs make up 16.6 percent of the workforce.

New York City

• Population rank: 1

• Property crime rate: 2,256 crimes per 100,000 residents

• Percentage of white-collar workers: 64.2

• Percentage of burglar alarms in the workplace: 42.7

Los Angeles

• Population rank: 2

• Property crime rate: 3095.9 crimes per 100,000 residents

• Percentage of white-collar workers: 60.9

• Percentage of burglar alarms in the workplace: 49


• Population rank: 3

• Property crime rate: n/a

• Percentage of white-collar workers: 60.5

• Percentage of burglar alarms in the workplace: 42.3

Seattle-Tacoma: The City with Fewest Workplace Alarms

The city with the lowest percentage of burglar alarms shares many characteristics with cities high on our list. Famous for its rainy weather, grunge music scene and a giving birth to a little coffee shop called Starbucks, the Seattle-Tacoma area reports a 33.3 percent rate of burglar alarms in the workplace, according to SDM’s 2004 Consumer Study: Workplace & Home Security.

The numbers don’t immediately point to a clear reason for the relatively low percentage of alarms in the workplace. The city’s property crime rate is 4,866.1 crimes per 100,000 residents, putting Seattle squarely in the middle on our list of the 30 largest cities when ranked according to property crime rate.

The total percentage of white-collar workers is about 73 percent, higher than many of the cities that logged higher percentages of workplace alarms.

And Seattle-Tacoma is one of the larger metro areas on our list, twelfth in population. But unlike other metro areas, Seattle isn’t growing at a rapid clip. According to the Associated Press, the total population for the state of Washington grew just 1.1 percent in 2003.

There is also a recent local government crackdown on false alarms, inspired by the verified response controversy that was ignited in Salt Lake City, Utah, a few years ago. The Tacoma government enacted a stricter fine structure and imposed an annual fee for alarm users.

“More people are hesitant, knowing there will be an annual fee,” says Doug Beaulieu, president of Custom Security Systems in Lacey, Wash., a suburb of Seattle. “There are quite a few [false alarms] in this area and they saw this as a solution.”

Seattle also has a similar ordinance in place, he says.

Seattle-Tacoma, Washington

• Population rank: 12

• Property crime rate: 48,866.1 crimes per 100,000 residents

• Percentage of white-collar workers: 73

• Percentage of burglar alarms in the workplace: 33.3