How to alarm a bogus burglar

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The Independent Online

Today I want to tackle one of the big questions of our time: should you install a genuine burglar alarm or is a fake burglar alarm good enough?

Today I want to tackle one of the big questions of our time: should you install a genuine burglar alarm or is a fake burglar alarm good enough?

Let's look at the differences.

A genuine burglar alarm is a tin box on the wall of someone else's house, just high enough so that you can't read the telephone number to ring when it goes off uncontrollably, which it always does. Burglar alarms start ringing for no apparent reason and go on and on and on, until you are driven mad enough to go round to the house and bang on the door, which is answered by the nice young man in residence who says he is trying his best to get the company to switch the burglar alarm off but they haven't responded yet and you thank him and go away, unaware that you have just been speaking to the burglar himself.

A fake burglar alarm, on the other hand, is just a tin box on the wall of the house.

More differences?

A genuine burglar alarm costs a lot of money, is very bothersome to install and causes endless annoyance to your neighbours, because it makes a lot of noise and does not catch burglars.

A fake burglar alarm is very cheap and never goes off by accident, or by design. A fake alarm has never kept anyone awake.

Genuine burglar alarms are factory made and do not look very convincing; all the expense has gone into their real function ie to make a loud noise and madden the neighbours.

Fake burglar alarms have only one function, to look genuine. Therefore all the expense goes into its looks. Many fake burglar alarms are hand-crafted and painted by artists to look the real McCoy.

Let's hear from a genuine burglar on the subject.

"Oh, God, yes - it's only the fake ones which look at all authentic. It's very important in my line of business to tell working from non-working alarms, and so I always look for the little signs that give the latter away - the lack of electric wiring, perhaps, but mostly the exquisite workmanship you never get on the real thing, which is always production-line and bog-standard. Incidentally, can I take this opportunity to say that 'burglar alarm' is a strange name? When a burglar hears the alarm go off, he is not alarmed. He is alerted. A burglar legging it is not a cool burglar. Do you not think 'neighbour alarms' might be a better name? Or, of course, 'burglar alerts'? Thank you."

Now let's hear from a fake burglar.

"I am a fake burglar in the same sense that a bogus doctor is a bogus doctor, ie I pretend to be one, although I am not qualified. But then, how does one qualify? The training for burglars is lamentably low in this country. Any Tom, Dick or Harriet can get a media training course, and end up useless to society and unemployed, but the facilities for would-be burglars are non-existent. I would love to be a genuine burglar, but the training is just not there. Personally, I blame the Government."

Yes, but how do you rate fake burglar alarms?

"They're good. I can't tell the difference. If I were trained, maybe I could."

Now let's hear from a bogus doctor.

"Hello. How are we feeling today? Good, good. I'll just take your temperature. No, we don't put thermometers in your mouth any more. Even bogus medicine progresses, you know! What I always say is that bogus doctors have a vital role, because we can deal with bogus patients. If real doctors were relieved of all the bogus patients, they'd have time to put the NHS back on its feet. Now, let's look at your temperature. That's funny - where's the thermometer gone?"

It's been nicked by a genuine burglar, of course. So there you are. A fake burglar alarm comes out higher than a genuine burglar alarm in all tests. Next week we'll be answering another vital question of our age: Your place or mine?