Safe at Home

Protect your property and loved ones with security systems that work

This area is home to some of the most stunning 
private residences in the country; there is considerable wealth here—and it shows. But just how secure are our most affluent neighborhoods? How guarded are the houses that sit beyond the tallest gates? And how safe are the families who live in them? Paul Viollis is CEO of Risk Control Strategies, Inc., a national consulting firm that offers a wide range of security and investigation services. We recently asked him to share his expertise with us.

Q: Since most high-end homes are equipped with standard alarm systems and cameras, is security really an issue?
A. I wish I could say no, but unfortunately, it is. I grew up in a small town on Long Island where nobody locked their doors. Sadly, times have changed. And when the economy is down, crime goes up … and this includes burglaries and home invasions, even in affluent communities.

Q. What are the top five crimes 
against homeowners?
A. Burglary is number one. Next is home invasion, which is usually violent. Third is internal theft—including identity theft—by staff, service persons or guests. Number four is extortion, which involves a threat, such as disclosing an indiscretion, for money. Last is vandalism—including hate crimes.

Q. What makes affluent homeowners especially vulnerable to these crimes?
A.
We have high-profile clients whose wealth is well documented, so obviously these people have increased levels of risk. Also at risk are homeowners who have had a liquidity event reported in the media, or who have been the subject of any negative publicity.

Q. Who are your clients?
A.
Their net worth ranges from under $1 million to north of $1 billion—with most in the $100 million range. Most are married with children and live in homes ranging from 7,000 to 62,000 square feet, with an average value of $5 million. It is these 
homeowners who attract the most educated and well-equipped intruders.

Q. What services do you offer?
A.
We offer the most advanced residential security equipment, as well as decades of experience in law enforcement. We tailor our security systems to individual clients, based on a comprehensive “threat analysis.” One of most the important questions we ask is: What does the world know about you?

Q. What kind of features are 
in demand?
A.
Many clients ask for a “safe room,” but don’t understand how they work. For example, it takes 20 seconds from break-in to face-to-face encounter, so can a family get to the room in time? Does a $200,000-plus room make sense? Instead I recommend a system that’s activated the moment an intruder sets foot on your property—at half the cost.

Q. Can you share some security tips?
A.
Install security systems during construction whenever possible. Be careful what you say around house staff. Guard your guest list when entertaining and hire security. Shake the belief that “it can’t happen to me.” Trust me on this: Nothing ever takes away the feeling you get when an intruder destroys the sanctity of your home.

illustration by kristina swarner