PITTSFIELD -- It was more than 20 years ago when a security alarm went off at 3 a.m. at the former Coachlight Restaurant on West Housatonic Street.
A young man had thrown a cement block through the restaurant's front window, but he set off the alarm when he stepped into the building.
The Coachlight's owners, Pat and Paul Bock of Pittsfield, were instantly alerted to the intruder's presence by the restaurant's security system. So were the police.
The intruder was apprehended when authorities arrived. Nothing was stolen, but it was a close call.
It wasn't the first time the Coachlight had been broken into; Pat Bock remembers six previous break-ins. But in each case, the Coachlight's security system prevented a burglary from taking place.
Burglaries and break-ins are far too common. But just as with the Coachlight, a good security system can minimize the damage.
According to the FBI, burglaries occur nationally about once every 14 seconds. About 65 percent of residential burglaries take place during the day, while establishments such as the Coachlight usually are targeted at night or in the early morning.
The installation of a security system means it's 15 times less likely that a home or business will be burglarized, the FBI has found.
At least 11 alarm and surveillance companies are located in Berkshire County. While the majority are based in Pittsfield, their services generally extend beyond the Berkshires. They offer a range of products, from smoke detectors to closed-circuit TV to devices that can monitor certain rooms in either a home or business.
The Bocks, who also ran The Pillars Restaurant in New Lebanon, N.Y., for 21 years, have used the New England Security Center of Pittsfield to install alarm systems in their homes and businesses for 35 years. The Bocks were New England Security's first customer.
New England Security Center was founded by Bill and Kathryn Mickle in 1978, based on Bill's experiences as a police officer in Pittsfield and Dalton. Bill saw crimes he thought could have been prevented if businesses and homes were better secured. The couple's business started modestly and utilized alarm technology that seems antiquated by modern standards.
"At first, we had a couple of wires that went to a box that made noise, but now the technology has become much more sophisticated," Kathryn said.
Those small boxes with wires behind them have been replaced by technology-driven devices such as remote security call systems, Kathryn said. The devices are so powerful that someone could use one in Europe to change the temperature of their home in Pittsfield.
But high tech still hasn't changed the prevalence of crime.
"Crime happens every day," Kathryn Mickle said. "Our best month for business is usually December. There are brand new things in everybody's houses, and everyone knows where they are hidden."
Ron Mason, the president and CEO of Alarms of Berkshire County in Pittsfield, said his business peaks when national and local crime increases.
"Unfortunately, with a knee-jerk reaction to news of crime, people aren't always making the best decisions [about what equipment they actually need]," Mason said. "They don't do their due dilligence to research what is absolutely necessary."
Some of the alarm and security companies in the Berkshires
(all area codes are 413):
A-1 Security: 2 Stillwell St., Great Barrington, 528-9955.
AAA Security Group: 111 Pine Grove Drive, Richmond, 448-4357.
Alarms of Berkshire County:
326 Springside Ave., Pittsfield, 445-4030.
Amtronics Systems: 135 Golden Hill Road, Lee, 243-9900.
Berkshire Alarm Systems: 122 Karen Drive, Pittsfield, 443-3923.
Global Security: 7 Ocean St., Lanesborough, 442-7031.
Guardplus 24 Security, Inc.: 1036 Massachusetts Ave., North Adams, 662-2029.
Kimball Farms Alarm: Main Street, Lenox, 728-8135
Lee Audio ‘N Security Co.: 65 Fairview St., Lee, 243-3622.
New England Security Center: 55 Church St., Pittsfield, 442-5647.
Nighthawk Security: 155 Ocean St., Pittsfield, 448-2473.