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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Safe as Houses

Everyone recalls the bag of tricks that young Macaulay Caulkin used against two desperate thieves when he was left home alone. Not everyone has the patience to heat up doorknobs and scatter broken Christmas ornaments, though. In modern Moscow, readily available technology and various security forces offer many ways to protect your apartment while you are at work or away on vacation.

According to the Interior Ministry, most burglaries occur on weekday mornings and during holidays -- when more people are away from home. The most common way to break in is through the door, either by key matching (32.8 percent) or by breaking the lock (25.4 percent). Eleven percent of apartment burglaries involve thieves entering through the window or balcony.

The cheapest preventive measures would aim to scare burglars away from your apartment before they have a chance to enter it. HomeIPoint is one company that sells "smart home" technologies, including security devices and surveillance equipment. To create the "presence effect" -- often enough to ward off most burglars -- you can buy a gadget that imitates a viciously barking dog for 2,873 rubles.

To secure the apartment further, it's possible to equip it with a complex system based on GSM technology. Most of these solutions consist of sensors and a central panel that informs the client of a possible break-in via text messaging or a phone call to a mobile device. Yevgenia Nechitailenko of HomeIPoint says the most popular solution costs 10,000 rubles, not including installation. Such a system does not include an armed squad on your doorstep -- presumably you have a friend or neighbor that can check out the apartment if you are far away, and alert the police.

Alarm devices and other security bells and whistles are becoming more popular as people receive more information about the technology, Nechitailenko said.

"In reality, the security market is very young in Russia," she said. "All of the systems that we offer have been popular in other countries for decades, and are becoming more so here as information trickles to Russian consumers."

If an armed squad is in fact what you are interested in, there are two basic options in Moscow. The first network is UVO (short for Upravleniye Vnevedomstvennoi Okhrany), which consists of off-duty policemen. The second is made up of private security guard forces. Moscow firms that promise to dispatch a unit and catch the perpetrator all have contracts with either UVO or the private security network.

Marina Lystseva / Itar-Tass
Home security systems at a Security and Safety Technologies trade fair in Moscow.
One such company is Gulfstream, in the business since 1992. Its basic package includes a movement sensor, a magnet contact sensor for your door, and a control panel that turns the alarm on or off. In the event of a break-in, a signal is transmitted via phone, radio, Internet or GSM to the Gulfstream headquarters, and a UVO unit should be dispatched to your apartment within minutes. Price varies depending on equipment brand, number of sensors, and size of your home, but in the end, armed policemen should be at your door looking for the perpetrator.

A significantly cheaper setup is offered directly by UVO, but it has a number of downsides. First of all, the alarm is based on your phone line, so you cannot use it with an answering machine, and take responsibility for all the line's malfunctions, which might cause a false alarm. Secondly, UVO's default equipment is bulky and not very aesthetically pleasing, especially if you aren't planning to remodel in order to hide the wires.

If, for whatever reason, an armed police unit isn't to your taste, you may consider a company that uses private security guards. "The main difference is that the priority of the police is catching the criminal, and the priority of a private guard is protecting the client's property," said Anna Novikova of Set Pultovoi Okhrany, or Remote Security Network, an organization that contracts private security forces based all over Moscow.

SPO offers similar equipment to Gulfstream's, only the scenario ends with the arrival of private guards; exactly how long they should take would be stipulated in the contract, but that would never be more than 15 minutes, Novikova said. Caught burglars are taken to the police.

In addition, many companies are starting to offer additional services to become more competitive in the thriving security market. "There is more and more demand for our integrated package that includes a fire alarm, and gas and water gauges," which can monitor for leaks, said Vladimir Slezko of Gulfstream. Some firms also team up with property insurance companies and offer mutual discounts.

Gulfstream, 771-77-71,
Equipment and installation: from 30,000 rubles.
Monthly fee: 250 to 350 rubles.

Upravleniye Vnevedomstvennoi Okhrany (UVO),
Equipment and installation: from 6,850 rubles.
Monthly fee: 117 to 294 rubles.

Remote Security Network (SPO), 956-1212
Equipment and installation: from 35,200 rubles.
Monthly fee: 950 rubles.

Various gadgets, with complete systems starting at 9,464 rubles.