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. Despite this, a Reviews.com survey found Midwesterners were the least likely to have ever owned a home security system. The survey showed 73% of Midwesterners have never had a home security system, compared to 27% of those in the South, where the most Americans reported having had a home security system at some point. With all this in mind, it’s time to start looking for a security system that’s right for you.
We tested eight of the largest companies for eight months to find the four 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).
How We Found the Best Home Security Systems in Chicago
To find the best home security systems, we looked at eight of the most popular companies that offer professional monitoring: ADT, Vivint, Frontpoint, GetSafe, SimpliSafe, Link Interactive, Protect America, and LiveWatch. Each company had to offer four basic types of protection:
- Intrusion — door, window, and glass-break detectors
- Surveillance — indoor and outdoor cameras
- Environmental — fire, carbon monoxide, and flood detectors
- Life safety — panic and life alert 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 a few 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 yearlong (or multiyear) contracts. We kept an eye out for systems that were finicky and prone to setting off false alarms, and gave extra points to those that blended into our routine without a hitch. In the end, we found four systems that will put any Chicagoan’s mind at ease.
The 4 Best Home Security Systems in Chicago
Chicago Home Security Reviews
If ADT’s basic home automation services make you hungry for a smarter home, Vivint may be a better fit. Vivint stands out for its best-in-class tech and affordable home automation. Whereas ADT’s home automation services begin at the $49.99 tier, Vivint makes home automation available for $39.99 (with a $10 upcharge for live video).
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 house to adjust the 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, 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 a 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.
If you’ve wandered through any neighborhood in the US, chances are you’ve spotted ADT’s small blue octagon 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.
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.
SimpliSafe wants you to be protected, but it also doesn’t want to put you through the hassle of a traditional home security set up. Instead SimpliSafe wants to put you in charge with its suite of products, to build your perfect home security system.
Eschewing the traditional model of home security SimpliSafe prioritizes customization above all. This system can be used in a variety of ways, whether DIY, or one of SimpliSafe’s subscription plans. Either way you’ll have a security system that is worth it. DIY usage puts you in control of your home security, letting you monitor to your heart’s content. However if you want the more common features of traditional home security, SimpliSafe has you covered. Starting at just $15 dollars a month, SimpliSafe can provide professional monitoring, environmental monitoring, and a 24/7 live alarm. SimpliSafe doesn’t break the bank if you want more security; The offer some of the lowest rates in the industry.
When it comes to hardware, SimpliSafe wants to make an impression. In 2018 SimpliSafe decided to update its equipment with a beautiful design and form factor, adding contemporary charm to an already competent security system.
Simpisafe is great, but not perfect, unfortunately its simplicity can cause some hiccups. For smart home enthusiasts SimpliSafe can be an option, but only with specific equipment. The lack of native Z-wave or Zigbee functionality means SimpliSafe has a hrd time playing well with other devices. Nonethelss SimpliSafe stands on its own as an easy to use and budget friendly option for anyone looking for a less traditional home security option.
Guide to Chicago Home Security Systems
Research your neighborhood’s crime profile
Before investing in a home security system, we recommend doing some research on the crime rates and types that exist in your local neighborhood, and how rates for petty crime stack up with the national data the Reviews.com survey found: More than a third of U.S. adults (34%) have had a package stolen from their porch or know someone who has, and that rate rose to 45% for those aged 18-34. You can use an interactive crime map to view specific statistics on the frequency of violent and nonviolent crimes in your zip code. This kind of information can help you make an informed decision about the kind of equipment you want to purchase and the monitoring system you may prefer.
Register your security system
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 localities require you to register your alarm system with the city. You can find this information on your local city’s website or through the neighborhood police department. If you don’t register your system, you could face a hefty fee (up to $500) when it alerts the authorities.
Consider a local company
Whether you’re looking for a full-service system or a few security cameras to keep a watchful eye, all four 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.
Reviews.com Home Security Survey
As the home security industry continues to expand, it’s become increasingly difficult to choose from the wide range of systems that are flooding the market. For some, having a simple motion-activated floodlight is enough. For others, having a smart outdoor security camera to protect your home from potential break-ins and package thieves is a necessity. Our survey found 33% of Americans said video surveillance was the most important feature over automatic lights and alarms, ease of use, and low cost. Although this specific finding didn’t come as a surprise, since most people find comfort in knowing their house is being monitored 24/7, it was interesting to see how low cost ranked. Since most security systems come with high upfront equipment costs and contractual monthly plans for professional monitoring, price can be a huge barrier. We found almost half (46%) of U.S. adults said the main barrier to installing and maintaining a home security system was cost. For those with an income of less than $40,000, that percentage rose to 53%. Fortunately, these costs vary by provider as some are much more affordable than others. Make sure you spend some time shopping around and you’ll surely find a system that works for you.
Chicago Home Security FAQ
How much does a false alarm cost in Chicago?
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.
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 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.
What is Chicago’s crime rate like?
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 2,423 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 remain 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.
The Best Home Security Systems in Chicago: Summed Up
Web or mobile app