Boosting security at home can be bargain

AUSTINTOWN — The owner of a home security business has tips to those thinking their home could use some security upgrades that cost as little as $10 or are even free.

Steve Sopko, owner of RAS Total Home Solutions of Austintown, said he’s only handling emergency repairs for customers now and not installing new systems to adhere to the stay-at-home rules in Ohio.

But he offers tips to beef up security around your home.

“The simplest thing is lighting,” said Sopko. “Have ample lighting — motion activated lighting, nighttime lighting, it doesn’t really matter.

“Any type of nighttime lighting that will illuminate people. Someone wants to come and see what you’re doing in your house, they want to be concealed. They don’t want to be lit up.”

For example, Sopko bought a $10 motion-activated light from a local retailer for the front of his home. It has lasted a year so far and doesn’t use electricity. It lights up an area near two front windows.

Sopko, who was working as a Craig Beach police officer when he started his business in 1997, now operates his business full time. He has tips that don’t cost anything.

“Trim your bushes,” he said. Bushes provide a hiding place for someone — not only from you but from your neighbors, who can be a great ally in keeping a neighborhood safe.

“At nighttime especially, if someone’s hiding, I can’t see them. One of the biggest things is your neighbors. Everybody watches out for everybody. That used to be how it worked in this world. If people did more of that, there would be a lot less happening.”

It doesn’t hurt to put some sticks or other material around the house that can make noise if stepped on. That can alert a homeowner if someone is out there, Sopko said.


People should get in the habit of looking around their property when they arrive home, he said.

“When you pull into your driveway, you don’t just get out of your car and go. You stay in your car. You keep it locked. You look around your car and make sure everything’s good.”

Sopko said he can see the keypad to his security system through the window of his home when he pulls into the driveway. His system blinks if something has activated his system, such as a window or door that has been opened.

“Me, I can see my punch pad from my front window at night, so I can tell if my little red light is blinking, which means there was an alarm or not,” he said. He looks up at the pad to see if there has been an intrusion before he enters the house.

“Basically it boils down to situational awareness. It only takes a few seconds to look around. That’s one of the biggest things you can do,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised people’s fears. People have responded by buying supplies, including guns and ammunition, he said. He doesn’t think the virus has caused a significant spike in security system purchases because people are trying to hold onto their money.

“The only thing I will be doing (during the stay at home order) is emergency services where you’re locked out of your home, locked out of your car, your security goes down and not working properly. I will fix it,” he said.


The next thing to consider after lighting is locks. The typical door knob on an exterior door will not provide any resistance to a burglar, so the home needs to have a deadbolt and long screws securing it into the wall.

“Make sure you have 3-inch screws in your strike plates,” he said of the metal plate that attaches the lock to the door frame.

“You should always have a dead bolt,” he said. “There is no security in a knob” lock. “It only keeps an honest person out.”

Sopko sells and installs what he calls a security system notification appliance, what the public might call a security system. There are many types in many price ranges. Some alert a second party to an intrusion. Others only alert someone in the house at the time.

“Any type of security system notification appliance is helpful,” he said. They contain a panel that alerts the resident if a door or window is opened.

“That’s what gives you your notification that there is some problem. It could be door, window, motion detector, glass break, thermal, somebody cuts a screen, somebody steps inside your house onto the floor. We can go on and on. The variety of sensors I can connect is pretty much endless.”

Simple ones have a battery connected to the sensor that communicates with the panel.

“You can get a motion detector that comes with a little touch pad for about $20 or $30. You arm it and have to use a code to disarm it,” he said.


Some people may only want buzzers on doors or windows that are not even connected to a panel.

“What it boils down to is if those little buzzers you can buy for $4 or $5, if that’s what you can afford and No. 2, if you sleep good at night with those on there, then that’s a perfect system for you,” he said.

“If you’re comfortable with that and you’re fine with it not notifying anybody else, then there’s nothing at all wrong with that.”

Local stores also sell video surveillance systems that can be self installed.

“When you buy Harbor Freight $300 cameras, it’s not going to be the same as if you buy Speco, Pelco, Clinton Electronics. Now you’re paying $4,000 for the camera system, so there is a difference” in quality, he said.

For about $50 to $60, a person can put up a one-camera surveillance system, Sopko said. One that can accommodate eight cameras and a DVR starts at around $325.

For a professional grade surveillance system, for three doors, one motion detector and a touch pad, the price starts at around $850, professionally installed, Sopko said.



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