When a mobile phone and a purse went missing one after the otherfrom her house, Lalithasri (68) was clueless. She was even more baffled when her watchman maintained that he was unaware of the theft.

“The phone and purse were usually kept near the window and I knew somebody must have sneaked in. My son in the U.S. has been advising me to install security cameras. I thought it was needless. But the theft badly shook me as I realised living alone can be risky,” says the resident of Kilpauk.

For a long time, residents who were victims of thefts and burglaries upgraded their security merely with a few additional locks. Now, many residents have geared up to confront crime with technology.

Security systems such as access control systems, biometric devices, and the most-popular burglar alarms and closed-circuit television (CCTV) have become household names for many. A few technologically-inclined senior citizens like Santhanakrishnan (72) are on the lookout for enhanced security systems for their houses. Mr. Sanathakrishnan has ordered a personal emergency call system (or panic alarm) online to seek help from neighbours during medical emergencies.

The market for security cameras and state-of-art surveillance systems are no more restricted to commercial complexes and business centres. Denny Francis, Senior Regional Manager of SDB Cisto India, a Singapore-based security agency, says, “They usually realise the need to install security equipment only after they become a victim of theft. Though it is good to see the market for security systems expanding, the knowledge is still very low among residents.”

Areas such as Adyar, Kellys and Anna Nagar have a greater sense of awareness of the need for security systems, he says. He suggests wireless systems or concealed wires for CCTV cameras and alarms to prevent tampering of wires.

One of the firsts in the city to beef up its security was the Arihant Majestic Towers, the towering apartment opposite the Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminus.

From security alarms, smart cards to CCTV surveillance, the apartment has a complete range of electronic shield around it, safeguarding 310 houses. “As we are in a prominent location, we faced a lot of public nuisance. Lots of fire-fighting equipment went missing and we had instances of having unknown cars parked for months together in our complex. We installed smart-card access and now we are relieved of the trouble,” says the R. Sundaravelu, president, Arihant Majestic Towers Owners' Association.

Strengthening the apartment security, the association would now upgrade the 16-camera setup to make sure all areas come under the watchful electronic eyes. “We fought the initial resistance of the residents and have now become a benchmark for other apartments,” he says.