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Police and thieves

A meta category for random villains and the long arm of the judiciary

DSA, Bath, 2011

“DSA Bath” burglar alarm, Bath • Burglar running through curtain, pretty similar to the one here. • Spotted: York Buildings, Bath, Avon, BA1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat […]
DSA, Bath, 2011

Banham, Camden, 2012

“Banham” burglar alarm, Camden • I’ve published lots of white Banham alarms, but here’s the first black one, complete with Dickensian villain. • Spotted: Rugby Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2012 • […]
Banham, Camden, 2012

Crime Stop, Birmingham: avatar

Crime Stop Protected "Crime Stop Protected" burglar alarm, Birmingham • Used as my avatar yet I've never previously published this round version. So here it is, in all its shadowy intruder-like glory. • Spotted: Meriden Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Birmingham Ladywood
Crime Stop, Birmingham: avatar

PC, Stratford-upon-Avon: minimalist

PC HenleySt StratfordUponAvon nr CV37 6PT 20029_800 "PC Security" burglar alarm, Stratford-upon-Avon • Three popular security tropes in one minimalist logo: police and thieves, locksmithery, and of course computers. I think we can leave political correctness out of it.  • Spotted: Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Stratford-on-Avon
PC, Stratford-upon-Avon: minimalist

Morse, Camden: sleuthing

Morse Security "Morse Security" burglar alarm, Camden • A giant felon's fingerprint on a shiny light-up bell box – how great! The name suggests the sleuthing of Inspector Morse, but of course also evokes morse code - which is a kind of computing. So I stand by including it in my maths theme. • Spotted: Greville Street, Camden, London, EC1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
Morse, Camden: sleuthing

“Crimefighter”, Margate: long-lived fist

"Crimefighter Alarms" burglar alarm, Margate • I've already featured a vintage version of this ambiguous fist here, where I noted it was hard to guess if it represented a window-smashing felon or an avenging limb of the law. Either way it's nice to see the 1984-founded Kent firm still going strong with the same punchy logo, even if their sounders are always too inaccessible for me to take a good shot. Their website informs me they've now incorporated another of my favourite crime-related brands, Judge Alarms – I featured one here. • Spotted: Broad Street, Margate, Kent, CT9, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Crimefighter”, Margate: long-lived fist

“Crime Cure”, Bristol: vintage inverted pocket

"Crime Cure" burglar alarm, Bristol • This is an absolutely classic sounder, and it makes me chuckle every time I see it. I found it at eye level in downown Bristol, the city that never stops giving great burglar alarm gifts. Everything about it, from my shallow design-based point of view, is good: it's vintage metal; an unusual "inverted pocket" shape (though I have found one other); rare use of green; amusing name in bold modernist type; and a complex piece of heraldry incorporating eight popular security tropes in a tiny space, namely lions, keys, an eye, a padlock, some bars, a shield, a castle, and even a motto – "protect and deter". An internet search on "crime cure security" throws up firms in business listings all over the place, including Bristol, but as none have their own websites I'm assuming they're all defunct.• Spotted: High Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Crime Cure”, Bristol: vintage inverted pocket

“CIA”, Emsworth: backyard creeper

"CIA" burglar alarm, Emsworth• A shadowy CIA intruder is creeping through the rusty debris of this harbourside back yard, bringing a splash of red to the decaying scene. I featured a close-up of this under the "Shadowy Intruders" theme a long way back, when I had no idea what the initials really stood for. Thanks to some informed comment by Paul Germaine, I can now tell you that it is Christie Intruder Alarms, founded in 1967 by husband-and-wife team Barrie and Janet Christie, and still going strong on the South Coast today. According to their excellent website, this "crooked man" logo – one of my favourites, and still in use – was designed in 1970 by Janet Christie herself. When amateur burglar alarm-spotting friends come to me with exciting alarm designs they've stumbled across, it's often this one, because it's so amusing and noticeable. • Spotted: Seagull Lane, Emsworth, Hampshire, PO10, England, 2003 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Havant
“CIA”, Emsworth: backyard creeper

“Banham”, Lambeth: posh alarm, rough niche

"Banham" burglar alarm, Lambeth • This is brilliant – a posh Banham alarm in the most rough-and-ready bespoke niche. I found it on the wall of Pimlico Plumbers, who despite their toney SW1 name are located in the distinctly less upmarket area of Kennington, on the other side of the River Thames. • Spotted: Sail Street, Lambeth, London, SE11, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
“Banham”, Lambeth: posh alarm, rough niche

“Minder”, Lambeth: knackered nuclear device

Minder burglar alarm Lambeth 2011"Minder" burglar alarm, Lambeth • With its red button light and circuit-laced dial, this it looks like the decaying control panel for some superannuated nuclear device, and is the first of this design I've come across. I only found it yesterday, on some railway arches near one of Damien Hirst's many studios; if I'd discovered it earlier I'd have posted it after the Crime Fighter alarm, whose graphics so reminded me of The Sweeney's opening credits. Comedy crime caper Minder was Euston Films' equally classic follow-up, and also starred Dennis Waterman, albeit on the other side of the law – he played Terry McCann, minder of small-time spiv Arthur Daley, for those too young to remember. Minder was big in the 1980s, and though I'm no expert in electronics, the antique wiring on display here appears of the same vintage as Tel-boy's Ford Capri, and the graphics even older. I only hope Damien Hirst appreciates having such an unusual vintage alarm box opposite his premises. • Spotted: Newport Street, Lambeth, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall Minder burglar alarm Lambeth 2011
“Minder”, Lambeth: knackered nuclear device

“Liberty”, Derby: “Noooooo!”

Liberty burglar alarm Derby 2010"Liberty Security" burglar alarm, Derby • To unpack the notions of "Liberty" and "Security" presented here would require more philosophical knowledge than I possess. I prefer to think of this Statue of Liberty not as the quintessential symbol of freedom presumably intended, but as the toppled post-armageddon wreck at the end of Planet of the Apes. Preferably with Homer (Simpson) prostrate before it, wailing "Noooooooooooo!" • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South Liberty burglar alarm Derby 2010
“Liberty”, Derby: “Noooooo!”

“Trustee”, Westminster: a taste of porridge

Trustee burglar alarm Westminster 2004"Trustee Alarms" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • While proceeding through the burglar alarm category of "the law", our failed felon has been punched by a policeman, collared by a bevy of boring detectives, sentenced by a transvestite judge, and has now ended up in chokey. Being a pantomime burglar, he soon becomes a "trustee", a term familiar to watches of classic jail sit-com Porridge as referring to a slightly despised class of prisoners who perform menial duties for the "screws". His final stop – after the cushy playground of his Sky TV-enabled luxury open prison – will be a in the embrace of a very large woman called Liberty, to be posted tomorrow. • Spotted: Tavistock Street, City of Westminster, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Trustee burglar alarm Westminster 2004
“Trustee”, Westminster: a taste of porridge

“Judge”, Herne Bay: cross-dressing for justice

Judge burglar alarm Herne Bay 2004"Judge Alarms" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • Ah, a stern British judge in his white powdered wig and shiny black tights – what a reassuring picture of justice. I love this hopelessly literal design, though sadly I don't have an in-focus photo of it. Below the main image is another version which, in an example of perfect product placement, I found on a shop called Chainstore Massacre, offering prices both slaughtered and murdered. These alarms predate the UK's court dress reforms of 2008 (a controversial redesign by Betty Jackson), prior to which the entire British judiciary seemed to ponce around in bizarre 18th Century fancy dress. Things have loosened up since then, but in many circumstances wigging up is still required, and even today a High Court judge dresses like this on special occasions. If you want to follow suit, the actual wigs are available here, yours in dark blonde or light grey for two grand apiece. A snip! • Spotted: High Street, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North Judge burglar alarm Herne Bay 2004 Judge alarm on Chain Store Massacre shop Herne Bay 2004
“Judge”, Herne Bay: cross-dressing for justice

“Arrest”, Glasgow: policing by stealth

Arrest burglar alarm Glasgow 2010"Arrest Security Systems" burglar alarm, Glasgow • After days of dull detective work, once Sherlock was brought in an arrest was smartly made. But whereas burglar alarm firms make free with detection themes, they can't overtly reference the police, so they do it by stealth, employing blue-and-white colour schemes, and names such as this. I once spotted a "Cop" alarm too, somewhere down the immense length of South London's Old Kent Road (aka Murder Mile, so the Cop is well positioned), but I haven't managed to re-find it and photograph it yet. • Spotted: Merkland Street, Partick, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G11, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow North Arrest burglar alarm Glasgow 2010
“Arrest”, Glasgow: policing by stealth

“Videotech”, Islington: detection on drugs

Videotech burglar alarm Islington 2010"Videotech Security" burglar alarm, Islington • I know Sherlock Holmes was into drugs, but this is ridiculous. He's grown to immense proportions and is squinting at a rubbery gingerbread-style house through a magnifying glass, as if inspecting the chimney for crumbs. It's more like a suburb of the nightmare world inhabited by the sobbing, half-human house on the scary TR Security alarm than the glossy fusion of Video and Tech promised by the firm's title. But at least it's quite amusing, unlike most other detection-themed alarms – as has been demonstrated over last few days. • Spotted: York Way, Islington, London, N1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury Videotech burglar alarm Islington 2010
“Videotech”, Islington: detection on drugs

“Detect Fire and Security”, Bournemouth: sundowner

Detect Fire and Security burglar alarm Bournemouth 2010"Detect Fire and Security" burglar alarm, Bournemouth • Even the apricot glow of an autumnal seaside sunset can't rescue this detective-themed alarm from the depths of dullness. I have a very large set of burglar alarms labelled "boring", and this is firmly in it. Its tedium prompts me to enter lecture mode: note how the rounded neo-humanist font and smooth DTP drop shadow date its design to the late 1990s or beyond, which shows how telling just a few small design details can be. • Spotted: Pier area, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH2, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Bournemouth West Detect Fire and Security burglar alarm Bournemouth 2010
“Detect Fire and Security”, Bournemouth: sundowner

“Detection Protection”, Lambeth: dated doggerel

Detection Protection burglar alarm Lambeth 2009"Detection Protection" burglar alarm, Lambeth • What can I say? Like all the other detection themed alarms, dull, dull dull – and ancient, and faded, and cheaply done – exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to find in a road called Lower Marsh (believe it or not, there's an Upper Marsh, too). But at least it rhymes! • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall Detection Protection burglar alarm Lambeth 2009
“Detection Protection”, Lambeth: dated doggerel

“Detec New Romney”, Bexhill: nuclear quill

Detec burglar alarm Bexhill 2009"Detec New Romney" burglar alarm, Bexhill • The isolated marsh town of New Romney is more ancient than its name suggests, and I "detec" that this alarm's been around a long time too. Painstakingly drawn in scratchy pre-DTP pen lines, it combines the tropes of detection and tech in a naive 1970s blast of letters, as if radiating from the ageing nuclear power station at nearby Dungeness. The famous driftwood garden of overrated 1980s film-maker Derek Jarman is also at Dungeness, while Jarman himself lies long-buried in the graveyard of New Romney's Norman church. Unfortunately he doesn't add any circularity to my thesis, because I actually found this alarm in Bexhill. • Spotted: Marina Arcade, Bexhill, East Sussex, TN40, England, 2009 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Bexhill and Battle Detec burglar alarm Bexhill 2009
“Detec New Romney”, Bexhill: nuclear quill

“Detecta Link”, Lowestoft: Detecta Dull

Detecta Link burglar alarm, Lowestoft, 2007"Detecta Link Fire & Security Systems" burglar alarm • To catch a thief requires detection, and detection is by its very nature painstaking and procedural, but do alarms featuring a detection theme have to be so dull? The answer, it seems, is yes: and this snorey object is one of the more interesting ones, because at least it's a bit 1970s, and features sound waves. (In general, concentric circles or arcs seem to represent sound, rather than light.) There are duller to come. • Spotted: Town centre, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR32, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Waveney Detecta Link burglar alarm, Lowestoft, 2007
“Detecta Link”, Lowestoft: Detecta Dull

“Crimefighter”, Whitstable: “Shut it, you slaaaag!”

Crime Fighter burglar alarm, Whitstable, 2002“Crimefighter” burglar alarm, Whitstable • There's a nice 1970s feel to this, perhaps inspired by seminal TV cop show The Sweeney – though it’s not clear whether the fist represents a window-smashing felon, or a big fat punch from the long arm of the law. I prefer to think it's the latter, accompanied by Regan and Carter's immortal phrase: "Shut it, you slaaaaag!" • Spotted: Oxford Street, Whitstable, Kent, CT5, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Canterbury Crime Fighter burglar alarm, Whitstable, 2002
“Crimefighter”, Whitstable: “Shut it, you slaaaag!”

“Crime Stop”, Hackney: the fine art of crime

Crime Stop burglar alarm, Hackney, 2006"Crime Stop" burglar alarm, Hackney • After a parade of shadowy intruders and pantomime burglars, the time has come to firmly lay down the law. Despite its simple message and drippy background, this manages to sum up the prime directive of all burglar alarms, albeit backwards: stop crime. I actually find its washed-out minimalism rather beautiful – it makes me think of stain paintings by Morris Louis or text works by Ed Ruscha. There's obviously something very, very wrong with me. • Spotted: Downham Road, Hackney, London, N1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch Crime Stop burglar alarm, Hackney, 2006
“Crime Stop”, Hackney: the fine art of crime

“Wilton”, Salisbury: half man, half wasp

Wilton burglar alarm, Salisbury, 2007"Wilton Alarm Services" burglar alarm, Salisbury • Possibly inspired by Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, what we have here is a creature half human, half insect, and all bonkers. Its nether regions are waspish, with a striped thorax resembling a pantomime burglar's t-shirt, while its back sports just one weird bubble-shaped wing. Atop this sprout the head and arms of a pudgy middle-aged man, bald save for a huge, lop-sided sprig of hair. One arm clutches an object (maybe a burglar alarm) saying "WASP" to his breast, while the other brandishes a fencing foil, presumably denoting the sting of justice. Grinning manically, he hovers like a drunken fancy dress uncle above the firm's logo – whose initials inexplicably spell WAS, not WASP, and are printed in blue and white rather than the more logical black and yellow. What a mutant fencing wasp has to do with burglar-catching is anyone's guess: I like to think the character was designed by the security firm's owner, in the colours of his favourite football team, and portrays himself. One of the craziest burglar alarm designs I have found. • Spotted: Town centre, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Devizes Wilton burglar alarm, Salisbury, 2007
“Wilton”, Salisbury: half man, half wasp

“TR Security”, Tower Hamlets: Grimm psychodrama

TR Security burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets, 2010"TR Security Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This isn't a cartoon, it's a psychodrama. It's so troubling it reminds me of a Grimm's fairy tale, or one of those scary 1960s eastern european animations so brilliantly pastiched in The Simpsons as jerky cut-price replacements for Itchy and Scratchy. Let me describe the scene. The sun is high; the shadows small. A stocky, bizarrely-dressed man with the bulbous nose of a heavy drinker sprints across a featureless wasteland. In his white-gloved, malformed hands he cradles an intricate jewelled crown, the sort normally kept in a monarch's treasury. Peering over his shoulder, masked eyes glinting, he grins triumphantly back at the victim of his crown theft: a neat suburban house. A house that is half human. A house that is sobbing. Its sides heave with emotion, its door gapes in horror, its upstairs windows have become scrunched-up eyes squeezing out huge tears. By its side sits a writhing tangle of shadows, so dark it's impossible to work out what lies within. Maybe it's the house's existential despair; maybe it's the burglar's black soul; maybe it's just a bad drawing of a bush. But the moral is clear: don't store a crown in a suburban house, and if you must, then don't leave the front door open when there's a weird-looking bloke hanging round. • Spotted: Commercial Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow TR Security burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets, 2010
“TR Security”, Tower Hamlets: Grimm psychodrama

“Tops”, Aylesbury: burglar or banker?

Tops Security Solutions burglar alarm, Aylesbury, 2010"Tops Security Solutions" burglar alarm, Aylesbury • Peer closely at this and you'll see a frowning, potato-faced fellow in an eye mask and stripey t-shirt positively pelting along beneath the logo. His defining features are a swag bag as big as he is, and a towering top hat. While it may be unusual to turn to burglar alarms for searing indictments of modern capitalism, it's hard not to see this badly-drawn chancer as a booty-laden banker or toffish politician, fleeing with the hard-earned savings of ordinary folk – a kind of reverse Robin Hood. Adding a further heady whiff of class war to this box are the police-blue colourway, the Tory constituency, and the bits of rubbish stuffed behind it. As for why the cartoon is buried under the logo, my theory is that a relative of Tops' boss did the useless cartoon, and the graphic designer hated it so much they tried to hide it. • Spotted: Kingsbury, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Aylesbury Tops Security Solutions burglar alarm, Aylesbury, 2010
“Tops”, Aylesbury: burglar or banker?

“ES Security”, Southwark: don’t mix crime with mime

ES Security burglar alarm, Southwark, 2010"ES Security" burglar alarm, Southwark • Another window-clutching mime artiste (see also Securitech, Exeter), wearing a strange beret-like hat possibly inspired by annoying Gallic "clown" Marcel Marceau. Unhappily for the lithe snooper, there is a highly advanced second burglar alarm hidden inside the window (I'm assuming this is an interior view), whose powerful sound waves have brutally severed his right foot. That'll teach him to mix crime with mime. This is my last "shadowy intruder" for now, and I must admit I'm rather bored with their anonymous silhouettes – I prefer the bizarre cartoon felons I think of as "pantomime burglars", of which some prime specimens will follow shortly. • Spotted: Southwark Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark ES Security burglar alarm, Southwark, 2010
“ES Security”, Southwark: don’t mix crime with mime

“Corinium Security”, Cirencester: shell suited shadow

Corinium Security burglar alarm, Cirencester, 2007"Corinium Security" burglar alarm, Cirencester • An unusually athletic shadowy intruder in a pre-internet shell suit, performing Parkour across a DIY array of stickers in a manner reminiscent of the Milk Tray man. Most Corinium alarms feature elaborate classical designs (Cirencester, aka the Roman town of Corinium Dobunnorum, is that kind of place) – I'll get round to those later. • Spotted: Town centre, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cotswolds Corinium Security burglar alarm, Cirencester, 2007
“Corinium Security”, Cirencester: shell suited shadow

“Regal”, Wandsworth: a work by Neville Brody?

Regal Security Systems burglar alarm, Wandsworth, 2002"Regal Security Systems" burglar alarm (stickered over RH Alarms), Wandsworth • Oh, the ignominy – having another firm's logo plastered over your head. There's enough of the original design showing to discern that this is an RH Alarms box, the same as yesterday's faded felon – their trademark running figures had clearly become yesterday's men. The Regal design is also pretty ancient by now, and looks inspired by the 1980s works of Neville Brody (famed art director of style mag The Face), especially his 1984 record sleeve for Marilyn's Baby U Left Me. I'm sure the logo font is one of his: it's like a cross between Dome and Typeface 4. I can't find a digital version, but of course any old designer could have photocopied the letters from magazine headlines, as was common practice pre-DTP. However Brody did design things like estate agents' boards in his earlier days, so it's not inconceivable he had a hand in this – and a conspiracy theorist would note that his font foundry, Fuse, ran a design competition on the theme of security in 2005. The only regal connotations of the honeycomb device are royal jelly and queen bees (or, coincidentally, The Royal College of Art, where Neville Brody is now head of graphics), but the conceit of taking an aristocratic title is very common amongst the burglar alarm fraternity – and a theme I shall return to. • Spotted: Battersea Park Road, Wandsworth, London, SW11, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Battersea Regal Security Systems burglar alarm, Wandsworth, 2002
“Regal”, Wandsworth: a work by Neville Brody?

“RH Alarms”, Frome: faded felon

RH Alarms burglar alarm (faded), Frome, 2008"RH Alarms" burglar alarm (faded), Frome, 2008 • The ultimate in anonymous intruders: a burglar so bleached that only his generic silhouette remains. With a bit of tweaking in Photoshop, it is possible to discover the logo "RH Alarms" – a suitably uninformative name. • Spotted: Town centre, Frome, Somerset, BA11, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Somerton and Frome RH Alarms burglar alarm (faded), Frome, 2008
“RH Alarms”, Frome: faded felon

“Crime Stop Protected”, Birmingham: death disco

"Crime Stop Protected" burglar alarm, Birmingham, 2005 • The Mad Man burglar from IAS returns, only to be caught in a pulsating op-art circle, reminiscent of HAL's all-seeing "eye" in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's often hard to tell whether such wave visualisations represent sound or light; perhaps this is meant to conjure up both, a blaring hell of screaming sirens and strobing beams, pinning our suave criminal like a moth on a spotlight in a nightmarish 1970s disco. We can see you, Dave... • Spotted: Meriden Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Birmingham Ladywood
“Crime Stop Protected”, Birmingham: death disco

“Securitech”, Exeter: mime artistes beware

Securitech burglar alarm, Exeter, 2009"Securitech" burglar alarm, Exeter, 2009 • Another shadowy intruder transfixed within a piercing beam of light (see also JB-Eye), suggesting burglary by mime artiste during a nuclear blast. I'd advise using a neutron bomb, it'll eliminate the felon but leave the building intact. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there actually is a Nu-Tron burglar alarm; I'll dig it out one day soon. • Spotted: Town centre, Exeter, Devon, EX1, England, 2009 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Exeter Securitech burglar alarm, Exeter, 2009
“Securitech”, Exeter: mime artistes beware

“JB-Eye”, Manchester: Pacman eats burglar

JB-Eye burglar alarm, Manchester, 2009"JB-Eye Security Systems" burglar alarm, Manchester, 2009 • "Please, Mr Pacman, don't eat me! I don't want to be a topping on your giant cheese pizza!" This looks like a tiny, pleading figure imploring a monster Pacman not to devour him. The unusual refinement of a shadow suggests a blast of nuclear light emanating from the chomping black blob. What the title JB-Eye has to do with it all is opaque – the name of some weird Pacman religion perhaps? • Spotted: Deansgate area, Manchester, Lancashire, M1, England, 2009 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Manchester Central JB-Eye burglar alarm, Manchester, 2009
“JB-Eye”, Manchester: Pacman eats burglar

“DSA”, Bath: a bizarre Freudian slip

DSA burglar alarm, Bath, 2007"DSA Bath" burglar alarm, Bath, 2007 • At first glance I thought the creator of this otherwise basic design had included touches that were positively Freudian. A doorway with a swishy fringed curtain, conjuring up both sex shop and butcher. A prominent knob, its position implying the door is firmly shut. A shadowy figure grabbing for it: desperate for entry, or escape? A peeping-tom camera spying impassively on the proceedings. And under it all the word "Bath", suggesting a scene from Hitchock. Then I realised the boring truth: the swishy lines are meant to be waves of some kind, emanating from the boxy thing I'd assumed was a camera. What the device really is, and whether it emits sound waves, light beams, or death rays, is left to the potential intruder's imagination. But there's no fringed curtain, and no Freudian subtext. Not intentionally, anyway. • Spotted: Town centre, Bath, Avon, BA2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bath DSA burglar alarm, Bath, 2007
“DSA”, Bath: a bizarre Freudian slip

“CIA”, Emsworth: secret service snooper

CIA burglar alarm, Emsworth, 2003"CIA" burglar alarm, Emsworth, 2003 • Here's another CIA alarm, more happily composed than yesterday's diagonal effort. Apart from being placed too high up to focus on sharply, everything about CIA alarms is utterly classic: the strident colour, the tabloid typography, the furtive figure. And, of course, being named after one of the world's most notorious spy organisations. Though, assuming the real CIA is not in the UK burglar alarm business, what this memorable acronym actually stands for remains unexplained. • Spotted: Seagull Lane, Emsworth, Hampshire, PO10, England, 2003 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Havant CIA burglar alarm, Emsworth, 2003
“CIA”, Emsworth: secret service snooper

“DR Security”, Tower Hamlets: What’s up, Doc?

DR Security burglar alarm, London E2, 2007"DR Security" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets, 2007 • "Help, Doctor Security, can you make a house call? There's a huge red throbbing pimple on my roof! When you get here, just climb in through the giant No Entry sign, and mind that nasty gap in the floorboards..." • Spotted: Three Colts Lane, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow DR Security burglar alarm, London E2, 2007
“DR Security”, Tower Hamlets: What’s up, Doc?

“IAS”, Sheffield: career criminal or Mad Man?

IAS burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010"IAS" burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010 • Most shadowy intruders seem to be based on the same stumbling silhouette, copied with varying degrees of simplification and skill. This is a particularly extravagant one – note the stack heels, the bulky and flowing jacket, the strangely bouffant hair. He's more like an extra from Mad Men or a drunken salesman than a sneak thief – unless career criminals actually do wear formal attire. The name "IAS" is equally shadowy: an unexplained acronym, beloved of so many burglar alarm firms. Intruder Alert Systems is my guess... (googles)... blimey, it could be, but there are loads of organisations called IAS. International Accounting Standards, that must be it – it's a pretty rumpled suit. • Spotted: Fargate, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central IAS burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010
“IAS”, Sheffield: career criminal or Mad Man?

“X Ray Alarms”, Hersham: an evil alien burglar

X-Ray Alarms burglar alarm, Hersham, 2002"X Ray Alarms" burglar alarm, Hersham, 2002 • An unusual shape which combines several top burglar alarm tropes in one naive logo: shield, lightning bolt, dated technology, and a poorly-drawn running figure, sporting swag bag, unidentifiable stick, and what is presumably meant to be an eye mask (did burglars EVER wear those?) but looks more like a motorcycle helmet. Or maybe the burglar’s meant to be an alien. Or an evil radiologist. Hersham also spawned Sham 69 and Shakin’ Stevens, so it doesn’t seem impossible. • Spotted: Ambleside Avenue, Hersham, Surrey, KT12, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Esher and Walton X-Ray Alarms burglar alarm, Hersham, 2002
“X Ray Alarms”, Hersham: an evil alien burglar

“Banham”, Kensington: the ponciest burglar of all

Banham burglar alarm, Kensington, 2010“Banham” burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea, 2010 • Unlike the shadowy intruder device, which is simply a generic silhouetted figure, pantomime burglars come in many forms. This refugee from Dexy’s Midnight Runners, on the venerable Banham shield, is by far the most poncey. Who does he think he is, posing in his fancy frame – a gondolier, a mime artiste, a strolling player, a jolly onion seller? He’s even dressed in golden cloth, playing on the beribboned motto “Another Burglar Foiled”. Banham knows it has a reputation as the posho’s burglar alarm, ubiquitous in London’s more gilded postcodes, but this is pushing it. He’s a burglar, goddamit, not a member of the Royal Academy. Interestingly (to some), this New Romantic-looking livery is a fairly recent Banham strategy; previously their alarms were of the minimalist typographic persuasion. From functionalism to frippery: it must be the way society’s going • Spotted: Cheval Place, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW7, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington Banham burglar alarm, Kensington, 2010
“Banham”, Kensington: the ponciest burglar of all

Nameless alarm, Hanley: a classic pantomime burglar

Nameless burglar alarm, Hanley, 2010Nameless burglar alarm, Stoke-on-Trent, 2010 • Felons on burglar alarms seem to come in two types only: the shadowy intruder, and the pantomime burglar. This is a prime example of the latter: stripey t-shirt, black eye mask (here resembling antique goggles), and a big lumpy bag marked swag. A striking work outfit, certainly, but a bit of a giveaway. For good measure, this chap’s wearing some manner of proletarian cap – or maybe it’s a knotted hanky – and has got mightily entangled in a “no entry” sign. No wonder he looks so unhappy. Unlike the artist, who considered this design so iconic that the company name has been omitted. Unless that’s the burglar’s phone number it’s advertising. • Spotted: Hanley town centre, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1, England • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central Nameless burglar alarm, Hanley, 2010
Nameless alarm, Hanley: a classic pantomime burglar

“Securipol”, Westminster: dodgy duo behind MI5

Securipol Systems burglar alarm"Securipol Systems" burglar alarm, City of Westminster, 2010 • I have a soft spot for silhouettes on burglar alarms, with their suggestions of shadowy activity. Despite having so little detail, they are often extremely poorly drawn, and this is no exception: note the Bunny-girl ears on the presumed Alsatian, and the awkward pose of the security guard, with his hint of jackboot on one side, and what appears to be an amputated stump or penile malformation the other. More successful is the equally bodged-up name: Securipol. It's a naive, unsubtle construction, but one with etymological power, because what instantly springs to mind? Security. Police. Loaded words with classical roots: Latin "securus" (without care) and Greek "polis" (city). It's rendered in navy and white, which also have police connotations (a trend I've noticed on other burglar alarms too), implying that somehow this potato-headed freak and his rabbit-eared mutt are state-sanctioned protectors of the national security. Appropriate then that I found this alarm in Westminster, the heart of British government, on a building situated right behind the HQ of MI5,  the UK's internal security service. Make of that what you will. • Spotted: Horseferry Road, City of Westminster, London SW1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Securipol Systems burglar alarm
“Securipol”, Westminster: dodgy duo behind MI5