Some alarm companies would have us believe our homes are prime targets for crime, raising consumer fears.
"I think it has a lot to do with communication and the media. There have been studies that have shown as crime is dropping, news stories on crime have gone up," says Jack Calhoun of the National Crime Prevention Council.
FBI figures show a steady decrease in crime, with burglary down nearly 30 percent since the beginning of the decade. So why are Americans installing alarms in their homes?
"It's an extra peace of mind that's not an expensive extra peace of mind," says Jan Cory, a homeowner.
The cost to install a home security system has fallen by more than two-thirds since 1970. Now usually costing less than $1,000, these bargain basement prices have fueled a multi-billion dollar boom in the industry.
Cory's new alarm system makes her home among the 20 percent of American households that is now electronically protected.
"It's that one final thing you do at night, that everything is shut down and the house feels safe and it's off to bed," Cory says.
With homeowners taking more precautions and more responsibility for protecting their property, police departments might have cause to celebrate. But not necessarily.
Lt. Brian Downey of the Bronxville, N.Y., police department says, "False alarms are one of our biggest problems here."
Despite the false alarms, most law enforcement officials agree, home security systems are deterrents to crime. "If we become complacent responding to these calls we re only going to endanger ourselves and the public," Downey says.
Some security experts remind homeowners that a large, barking dog can work just as well.