Alarm systems cash in during restrictions

The feeling of insecurity grows with mobility limitations

2 min
Security barrier outside a building in Barcelona during the pandemic.

BarcelonaThe number of alarm systems bought has continued to rise during the pandemic, partly due to fear of squatters. The number of squatted properties has grown by 7% during 2020, while burglaries have decreased up to 36%, according to data from the Mossos d'Esquadra and the Ministry of Home Affairs. Why is this? "The feeling of security is subjective and does not necessarily correspond to real security," says Montse Iglesias-Lucía, PhD in law and security specialist, who points to two key factors that may have influenced the perception of insecurity: the fact that there have been people who for a long time could not go to their second homes due to mobility restrictions and advertising campaigns by large companies.

Thus, despite the general decline in crime, state-level companies have continued to get richer. The second largest in the sector, Prosegur Alarms, which joined Movistar last year, installed three times as many alarms just after the first home confinement, between June and September 2020, compared to the same period in the previous year. As for the third largest, ADT, it increased its customer base by 30%. The largest, Securitas Direct, although it refuses to give exact figures, has also admitted that it has had a very good year.

Beyond alarms, other security-related contracts have grown. Both Iglesias-Lucía and Helena Mulero, a criminologist, professor at the UB and director of security company Protimsa, point out that more and more people are opting to hire video surveillance service. "Controlling what happens in your home by streaming from your mobile phone increases the feeling of security and reassures many homeowners," says Iglesias-Lucía, who is director of the School of Prevention and Integral Security at the UAB. On the other hand, notes Mulero, after the first home confinement the hiring of thermographic video surveillance cameras to monitor the temperature of people entering enclosed spaces also increased. "Now the fever has subsided," she says.

The covid crisis, however, is not the only cause of the private security business's growth over the past year. Mulero, who is also a member of the College of Criminologists of Catalonia, explains it is part of a trend in which "key" advertising also plays a role. "There are very beastly publicity crutches, which only want to whip up the message of fear and scare citizens," says the businesswoman and teacher. "We must take into account that in recent years news stories about squatters and home robberies have become more common," adds criminal lawyer Marco Esteban. On this issue, Mulero is critical of "personal opinions that are echoed in the media based on perceptions" or the dissemination of certain studies that are made by the same companies who stand to profit.

An acknowledged offensive

In fact, some companies have taken advantage of covid context to launch an advertising offensive, as Prosegur Alarms admits. "By joining Movistar our commercial capacity has grown a lot, also in terms of stores and the power of our call centers In fact, some companies have taken advantage of covid to carry out an aggressive advertising campaign, as Prosegur Alarmas admits. "By joining Movistar, our commercial capacity has grown a lot, both in terms of shops and the power of our call centres" sources in the company admit. On the other hand, Securitas Direct assures that it has dedicated the same percentage of total turnover - which has increased - to advertising as in previous years and that, therefore, it has not made any extra effort in this regard during the pandemic.