The Best Home Security Systems in Chicago
It’s no secret that Chicago has a reputation for its high crime rate; and even though the burglary rate is slightly less than the national average, Chicago still saw over 14,000 burglaries in 2016, or about three homes for every 1,000. With all this in mind, having a good home security system should help you breathe a little easier.
We tested eight of the largest home security companies for eight months to find the three best home security systems in Chicago. All of them offer a variety of plans to suit your needs, whether you’re securing your Gold Coast apartment or your Lincoln Park home. We’ll dive into each company to help match you with your right fit. However, it pays to get several quotes to see which company can offer you the technology you need for the best price, especially if you’re getting a complex system (read: multiple cameras or monitoring for lots of doors and windows).
The 3 Best Home Security Systems in Chicago
Chicago Home Security System Reviews
To find the best home security system, we looked at eight of the most popular companies that offer professional monitoring: ADT, Vivint, Frontpoint, GetSafe, SimpliSafe, Link Interactive, Protect America, and LiveWatch. All eight of them master basic features, including door and window sensors to monitor glass-breakage or tampering; fire, carbon monoxide, and flood sensors; camera systems to give you an inside look at your home; and life alert and panic buttons.
To get beyond the basics, we evaluated each home security company based on their technology, giving preference to control panels that looked sleek and up-to-date and devices and apps that were easy to use. We also made multiple calls to each company to see how well their customer service held up under multiple trials.
Finally, we signed ourselves up and tested each system in our homes for eight months. We wanted to see how easy it was to use each device over the long-haul, since home security systems often come with year-long (or multiple year-long) contracts. We kept an eye out for systems that were finicky and prone to setting off false alarms and gave extra points for those that blended into our routine without a hitch. In the end, we found three systems that will put any Chicagoan’s mind at ease for the long haul.
If you've wandered through any neighborhood in the US, chances are you've spotted ADT's small blue octagon sign sticking out from someone's yard. There's a reason for this: ADT helps protect more than six million homes. At 144 years old, ADT has been in the business far longer than any other company we tested. This long history helps explain its popularity, but ADT backs up its historical reputation with up-to-date technology and customizable packages. ADT is a great home security company with a long track-record of protecting homes and staying current.
ADT offers three packages: Traditional, Control, and Video. All three include fire and carbon monoxide monitoring in addition to their 24/7 monitoring of your home security system. Instead of having to monitor and manage three different systems — your smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, and home security — ADT bundles your alerts into one system.
If you’d like to start automating your home, you'll want to upgrade from the Traditional to the Control package. This will give you access to the ADT Pulse App, so you can turn lights on/off, lock your house (or unlock it if your child forgets their key), and adjust your thermostat to let your house warm up before you get home. The only drawback? ADT only offers security cameras with its highest service tier, Video, so you’ll have to pay a bit more if you want to take advantage of video monitoring.
Home security companies track whether your system has noticed anything out of the ordinary and will alert you of the situation. However, they don’t watch video streams, which means that it’s up to you to determine whether you want the police to stop by or if you think it’s just a false alarm. Most cities have false alarm ordinances (we dive into Chicago’s a bit further on), which can quickly rack up fines. Having a video monitoring system — whether through your home security company or as a DIY security camera — gives you an instant look at your home to see if you truly need to call the police or if your cat has knocked over a vase.
The ability to customize your home security system just the way you like it — and with all the technological bells and whistles you like — means that ADT should be on your list to contact when gathering quotes. It’ll be able to fine-tune your system to your personal needs, and it will send out a professional installer to make sure your system is ready to go with little-to-no effort on your part. ADT's Traditional monitoring starts at $37 per month, but be aware that you might be charged more depending on the type of equipment your home needs.
If ADT’s basic home automation services make you hungry for a smarter home, you might love Vivint even more. Vivint stands out for taking home automation to the next level with a system that’s easier to use and more customizable. In addition to locking doors, managing lights, and changing your home's temperature, Vivint's Total Home Package lets you do things like close your garage door and program your home to adjust temperature based on how many people are home (and which rooms they're in). Additionally, you can allow your SkyControl panel to learn your habits, freeing you from having to manually adjust temperature every day.
To help capture who’s visiting your home, Vivint offers multiple cameras, including a smart doorbell camera — the better to help you determine whether your USPS package has arrived yet — as well as indoor and outdoor cameras.
We also appreciate that Vivint offers a month-to-month contract, which gives you an option outside of a year or three-year contract with which to try out your security system. In this case, Vivint requires you to purchase your home security equipment, which might rack up more upfront costs that our other top picks, but this extra charge could be beneficial in the long-run: If you decide to discontinue Vivint's monitoring of your home, you'll still have access to the equipment you've purchased, so you can continue using your cameras and smart thermostat without the monthly charge.
Frontpoint won huge points for its customer service. We were impressed at every stage, from our initial call asking after equipment — where our sales rep patiently listened to our safety concerns and walked us through what equipment we might want as we described every room of our house — to the shipment of a replacement part overnight, to the assistance in setting up our equipment. This last part is key, since Frontpoint is the only one of our top picks to require DIY installation.
DIY installation means that all of your equipment is shipped to you directly, and you'll need to set it up on your own, making Frontpoint a little less convenient than our other picks. However, Frontpoint makes DIY as easy as possible, with a personalized website that walks you through each stage of the installation. If you happen to take longer than expected for a particular stage, the site will ask you if you'd like some additional help, while providing phone number to call. Once you're ready to activate your system, a short phone call to the customer service line will finalize the process and confirm that your system is online and ready to go. Total time: about 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, like ADT, video monitoring is only available for Frontpoint's highest service tier. If you do want a camera, you can consider upgrading to the Ultimate plan, or look into installing your own home security camera. On the plus side, this means that DIY installation for other tiers is a little less intensive — you won't have to set up a camera for either the Protection or the Interactive plans.
Compare the Best Home Security Systems in Chicago
Other Chicago Home Security Companies to Consider
Whether you’re looking for a full-service system or a few security cameras to keep a watchful eye, all three of our top home security systems have the equipment and packages to protect your home. If you’d like to shop around with a few more companies and make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, these six Chicago home security companies come highly rated from sites like Yelp and Angie’s list and are a good place to start to get some additional quotes.
- Security Doctors
- Alert Protective Services
- 606 Installs
- Chicago Security Surveillance
- VinTech Security Solutions
Chicago Home Security False Alarm Policy
False alarms are a major problem in large cities, where police and fire departments spend time and money checking out an alert only to see that it was triggered by an over-enthusiastic pet. To try and recoup losses, most cities have a false alarm policy to penalize homeowners for requesting police support when it's not needed.
The good news for Chicago residents: Chicago's false burglar alarm policy doesn't apply to residential homeowners. For most businesses, however, you’ll have to pay a $100 fine and attend an administrative hearing for each false alarm. (For full details on the original ordinance, including what properties this policy applies to, see page 47,226 of the Chicago City Council Journal.)
The downside is that this information only applies to Chicago residents. If you live in a neighboring city like Evanston, Oak Lawn, or Schaumburg, you’ll have to check with your local government to a) find out whether you need to register your home security system and b) learn about what their false alarm policies are. Most cities forgive the first initial false alarms (Evanston forgives up to the first three per calendar year), but charges can rack up quickly after that. Evanston charges $100 per false alarm for counts 4-10 and $500 for any false alarm after the 24th. Schaumburg starts charging $110 at the third police visit and is less forgiving — after nine false alarms, you’ll be charged $1,120 for each additional one.
Chicago Crime Rate
There’s no getting around it: Chicago has a higher crime rate than the national average, a fact that is true of most major cities. That said, Chicago has a fairly low burglary rate, comparatively. In 2016, over 14,000 people were victims of a burglary (about three people for every 1,000). That’s better than the national average for that year, where about 1.5 million people were victims of burglary, or four people per 1,000.
The FBI reports that in addition to burglary being on the decline across the nation since 2008, the Chicago metro area has also trended toward fewer burglaries in recent years. In 2016 — the latest year the FBI has published data for Chicago — the number of burglaries in Chicago and the surrounding area rose about 1,000 from the previous year, but those numbers are vastly improved from 2012.
That said, there’s preliminary evidence that the period of decline might be coming to an end. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) surveys a much smaller area than the FBI — only the inner city itself — which explains why their annual report for 2017 documented 2423 burglaries. Even though the CPD only looks at a small area, their data is more recent; figures are updated weekly, and they show some troubling trends from 2016-2018.
The CPD agrees with the FBI that 2015 was a low point in burglaries, and there was a slight rise in 2016. Their data also shows that the increasing trend continued in 2017, and 2018 is on track to have an even higher burglary rate; as of March 4th, there were nearly as many burglaries in Chicago in 2018 as there were in the entirety of 2015.
Overall, Chicago’s burglary rate is still lower than the national average, but if you want to stay ahead of possible trends and make sure your home stays safe, we recommend choosing a home security plan that includes video monitoring, like Vivint’s Total Home Package or one of ADT’s and Frontpoint’s advanced service tiers. In addition to being able to do a quick check from anywhere there’s data service or WiFi as to whether you have a false alarm or a real burglary in progress, a high-definition camera will grab visual evidence of any unwanted visitors in your home.