The Best Home Security Systems in Seattle
The Best Home Security Systems in Seattle
From 2015-2016, Seattle was the fastest growing big city in the country, welcoming an average of 57 new Seattleites each day. In a city that’s growing so quickly, it can be tough to form lasting relationships with the neighbors (43 percent of whom were renters in the latest American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau) who can watch your back. One way to rest easy is to install a home security system to monitor what’s going on inside and outside your home, whether you’re there or not.
Our three favorite nationwide providers: ADT, Vivint, and Frontpoint, all have their place in the Emerald City. We dug into what each provider has to offer, and put those services in the context of Seattle crime and home security trends. You can use our breakdown to figure out which is the right fit for your home.
Seattle Home Security System Reviews
For our nationwide home security review, we took eight major home security providers’ systems for a test drive. They all had the core of a good security system: cameras, sensors, and buttons to protect against intrusions and environmental emergencies, plus surveillance and life safety features. After ordering, installing, and using them for eight months, we found three standout companies. ADT, Frontpoint, and Vivint all provide an outstanding customer experience and intuitive, innovative security tech — we’d be comfortable outfitting our own homes with any of them. But each particularly excels in a different area; here’s how they stack up.
You know the name, you’ve seen the signs — and therein lies ADT’s power. ADT’s been around for over 100 years, and provides home security for millions more people than any other provider out there. It’s tough to beat that notoriety when it comes to deterring break ins.
Despite being an established corporate giant, we were pleasantly surprised by the level of care we received from customer service and the features ADT’s services offer. Customers can opt for the standard tech (video cameras, etc.), or customize their package of gadgets and services to fit their needs. If you want to go heavy on home automation, for example, you can opt for settings that’ll trigger different reactions based on if there’s a fire versus another type of emergency. At a more basic level, a big plus for most testers was the ability to remotely choose whether or not to call the police after an alarm is tripped.
We’d recommend ADT if you’re most comfortable going with a well-known brand that has clout and a long track-record in the industry. If you’re not sure if you want the system long-term, though, be aware that you’ll have to opt into a three-year contract and can only test the system for three days before making up your mind. If you’re looking for a more personal touch, more flexibility, or to truly max out on home automation, consider one of the other two top providers.
Seattle is the birthplace of tech giants Amazon and Microsoft, and home to thousands of techies that keep those companies’ engines running. Home automation is a natural fit in the city, and an asset in home security. Out of all the providers we analyzed, Vivint was the most impressive when it came to seamless integration of cutting-edge features and usable technology.
For starters, its mobile app — which is becoming a crucial piece of any home automation or security system — was by far the easiest to use out of all the contenders we tested for our nationwide review. Its hardware was the slickest too: A low-profile, simple wall-mounted tablet you control via the app.
The only part of the Vivint experience that wasn’t automated was installation — that’s left to the company’s courteous, knowledgeable professionals. Our tester felt that the pro who installed his Vivint system was polite, timely, and honest (even reducing his bill after realizing they didn’t need to install one camera).
Vivint will allow you month-to-month flexibility (as opposed to ADT’s three-year contract), but only if you buy all the equipment upfront. If you don’t buy the equipment, you’re locked into a five-year contract. That’s a big commitment, and once you’ve got everything set up, you also have just three days to try things out. If you’re solidly in the “shopping around” stage, we recommend going for Frontpoint.
If you’re looking to dip your toes into the home security world without going all-in, Frontpoint will support you through that process. With unmatched customer service and a comparatively long trial period, you’ll be able to get comfortable with the services and features of Frontpoint without feeling the pressure to commit.
We had consistently pleasant, informative experiences with Frontpoint’s customer service, and were especially happy about its simple DIY-install. After a grand total of half an hour, we were able to get our control panel connected and online, place our door sensors, and activate the system. Our tester did hit a roadblock when his control panel wouldn’t connect, but a service rep addressed the issue right away and new equipment arrived the next day.
Customers can choose among three package tiers, each of which offers a different set-up of features, from basic monitoring with the Protection package to live video streaming with the Ultimate plan. We recommend either going with the Ultimate package, or buying a standalone security camera yourself to supplement — our tester found video to be indispensable.
If you end up loving Frontpoint after your 30-day trial period, you’ll have the chance to opt into a one- or three-year contract. Of all three contenders, this one’s the best for renters and home security beginners.
Compare the Best Home Security Systems in Seattle
Other Seattle Home Security Companies to Consider
We can vouch for the national providers we feature, but it’s always worth shopping around locally for the best prices and features. Here are five local Seattle home security providers we found that consistently get rave reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and Angie’s List:
- Absolute Security Alarms
- Rev Associates LLC
- Freedom Systems, Inc.
- Burdick’s Security
- Puget Sound Alarm Co.
Seattle Home Security False Alarm Policy
In 2004, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) introduced its first False Alarm Program. It uses a fee schedule and alarm registration system to drastically reduce the number of false alarms to which the department needs to respond.
“Before the False Alarm program … the Seattle Police Department responded to an average of 25,000 alarm calls a year with over 97% of them being false. With the program [the department responds] to fewer than 11,000 false alarm calls a year.”
The main intent of the program is to save the city money and time; but even with the reduction of false alarms, the city’s website says that false alarm responses still cost over a million dollars a year. A fee schedule helps the city make up for that loss, and penalizes your company when police are dispatched to your house only to find there’s no emergency.
Using an incorrect keypad code, re-entering your home without disarming your system, or even a power outage may set off a false alarm. If your security system is set off by what appears to be attempted robbery, Seattle home security companies are legally required to attempt to contact you before dispatching the police to your home. If the SPD are dispatched and get there to find no emergency, your alarm-monitoring company will be charged a fee that they can legally pass on to you. Your decision whether or not to ask your company to dispatch the police is crucial, since fees change based on when an alarm is canceled:
- An alarm is canceled before the police are dispatched: $0
- An alarm is canceled after the police have already dispatched, but they haven’t gotten to your house yet: $30
- An automated (burglar) alarm is tripped and the police respond: $115
- You set off an activated (panic/duress/robbery) alarm and the police respond: $230
Pro tip: Go to the SPD’s free workshops. You’ll learn how to avoid false alarms and get a free one-time fee waiver to use if you accidentally set off your system. You can attend a workshop and get a waiver once every seven years.
It may seem pretty simple to avoid these fees. But consider this scenario: You’re on vacation and get a call from your security company saying your front door’s alarm was tripped. You view the video feed on your phone and don’t see anything suspicious. At this point, you’re forced to weigh the fees for a false alarm with the possibility that a burglary is currently occuring at your house while you’re away. It’s easy to see how you might make the call to dispatch the police, just in case.
While your company might choose to pass the buck to you in a false alarm scenario, the City of Seattle’s philosophy is to hold the alarm company accountable, not you. In keeping with that, you won’t need to register your own system — it’s your company’s responsibility to be licensed.
Seattle Crime Rate
As Chetanya Robinson at The Stranger put it, “Comparing crime rates between cities, and drawing the right conclusions from them, is complicated.” There’s no way to tell how many crimes go unreported, and every city is too unique for us to make true comparisons. Ground yourself in that knowledge as you scan publicly available stats, which show Seattle’s property crime rate to be alarmingly high. While it’s not the highest in the country (the FBI doesn’t rank cities, but Wikipedia says Tucson holds that title), Seattle’s rate is still about twice the national average. The SPD has been pushing to hedge those high numbers in the last few years, with some success: In 2017, car prowls, auto theft, and burglaries were all targeted and the number of incidences decreased.
If you take a look at SPD’s crime dashboard, the breakdown shows that the vast majority of property crimes in 2017 were larceny (a.k.a. theft of personal property), with burglary a distant second. While the larceny stats may sound alarming, remember that larceny covers everything from bike thievery to car prowling — concerns outside the home.
If you’re concerned about break-ins, Scotty Bach, a member of SPD’s Major Crimes Taskforce who focuses on property crime, took to Reddit for a round of Ask Me Anything in 2017 — it’s full of insider knowledge and advice like this tidbit on the value of home security videos, and a tip for where to place your cameras:
Get to Know Your Neighbors
Whether the Seattle Freeze is real or not, your neighbors can be invaluable in your effort to stay vigilant and keep your home and belongings safe. Yes, it’s tough to form relationships with neighbors when they’re constantly transient (remember, 42 percent of Seattleites rent). But if you don’t know them personally, it’s a good idea to at least join your neighborhood Facebook group. Those groups often function as a sort of Neighborhood Watch for small issues (like: “Pick up after your dogs, dog owners!”) and crime trends alike.
One of our staffers belongs to the group in Fremont/Wallingford, and says that her neighbors frequently share their experiences with car prowling and stolen Amazon packages; sometimes, they’ll even post videos from their security systems that show what a thief in the neighborhood looks like.
If you’re really into the idea of looking out for your neighbors and forming a neighborhood alliance, check out the Block Watch initiative from the City of Seattle. Block Watch is out to make the casual way neighbors look out for one another into something more formal and organized. To get it started on your block, contact the Crime Prevention Coordinator in your area, then meet with interested neighbors on your block to discuss area crime trends and form prevention strategies.