We know what you’re thinking when the word “Missouri” comes to mind: BBQ in Kansas City. And while it’s true that this idiosyncratically located city is one of the tastiest food hubs in the country, Missouri is a much bigger place. St. Louis adds a Midwestern, big city charm all its own, and welcomes everyone, both foreign and domestic, to enjoy its passage into the west with the historic Gateway Arch. Outside of the big cities, Missouri is brimming with a hometown feel nearly unmatched in almost any other part of the Midwest. We’ll admit that the state is not perfect, however. Some studies suggest it’s one of the most dangerous places to live as far as natural disasters go. Yet one of the biggest concerns some Missourians (or potential Missourians) might have is home security. Although crime is relatively low in the Show Me state, home security in Missouri is still an interesting topic.
Home Security Provider Requirements for Missouri
Missouri is one of those rare states where the state government tries to keep its soiled fingers out of business as much as possible. When it comes to security alarm providers, the chains have been unfettered. Security system providers may well be shouting “let freedom ring!” from the top of the Gateway Arch. There are currently no laws governing any aspect of the home security providers located in Missouri– at least, on the state-government level. Not even the most basic regulations are put in place. At a minimum, most states require those working in this industry to have a “low-voltage installation” license. Even nearby Wisconsin, which has comparatively few laws regulating the industry, has this requirement as a minimum. Not so in Missouri. No, Missouri’s state government has decided to take a hands-off approach here.
Some of this may be due to the relatively low crime rates in the state. Ignoring the major cities (St. Louis, Kansas City), Missouri has one of the lowest rates for burglaries in the nation. Even if you do include the aforementioned metropolitan areas, Missouri still slides in just above the national median for property crimes, including burglaries. So does this mean that home security is a non-issue in Missouri? Not quite. You still have a 1 in 34 chance of being a victim of a property crime in Missouri, which is not insignificant. And while the safest cities in the state (Whitewater, Defiance, Alexandria, Annapolis, Leasburg) are about as safe as you’ll find anywhere in the country, around 25% of you Missourians have packed yourselves tightly into the state’s most populated (and, consequently, most dangerous) cities. For those of you in Kansas City, St. Louis, Springfield and a few others: You may have just a bit to worry about.
The lack of state-level regulation does not mean no regulation. Missouri has a large amount of decentralized governance. Municipal governments make up a lot of their own rules, and this includes ways to regulate the home security industry. Unfortunately, much of that regulation is targeted at you, the uneasy customer. Most of the local regulations stick to clamping down hard on false alarms. St. Louis is a great example of a city that wants you to stop calling the police to your house every time something happens. The city has a very well-developed and easy-to-understand website informing residents and alarm companies how they treat false alarms. The short answer? Stop making them, or pay up. Thankfully, the rules are stated rather succinctly. If you do get an alarm system installed while living in the city limits of St. Louis, you need to get your device registered. False alarms past the first one will cost you $25, then $50, then $100. At four false alarms, the city will suspend your registration for 30 days. At 8 false alarms, that suspension goes up to a whole year. Oh, and don’t count on getting any police response at all if you aren’t registered. They won’t come. Even if you’re watching the crime happen live on video.
Kansas City is a bit kinder with the fees and registration. They’ll only fine you $56 every time, but they will charge you extra for permit renewals if you have too many false alarms. The story is about the same for most localities in the state as well. Pay a permit fee, get police response. Don’t pay a permit fee, say goodbye to your possessions.
It’s likely not comforting to know that the state and most of the municipalities turn a blind eye to home security provider business practices in the state. This may be because the providers in the state are more prone to acting honestly and fairly. It could also mean you’ll want to be extra diligent with your research and when reading the contract from your provider. Of course, you could always hire a security guard. They, at least, require licensing and training.
Missouri Home Security Camera Laws
You’ll be glad to know that as lax as Missouri is on home security providers, it’s also fairly easy with homeowners who want to put up security cameras. There may be some irony in the fact that the Show Me state has only minimal restrictions on video surveillance. Missouri’s invasion of privacy law covers video cameras in a more general sense, with illegality coming only for those who wish to video anyone without their consent. Doing so could land you in trouble, especially if it’s both purposeful and if they are in a state of partial or full nudity. In that case, you’re looking at a Class D felony.
The more likely scenario is that you won’t be trying to record your attractive neighbor in the buff. You’re likely just trying to capture would-be criminals in the process of attempting to commit nefarious deeds. In those situations, so long as your cameras are not pointing inside of someone else’s window or, in the case of your own home, not recording people using the bathroom, you’re likely fine. In Missouri, people have no expectation of privacy outside of places where they would expect to end up undressing. Any would-be robber is going to be out of luck if they think they have any privacy rights inside of your home. Your cameras are perfectly fine anywhere on the outside of your house as well.
The only trouble spot comes with audio. Missouri and almost every other state in the nation has somewhat tight laws regarding audio recording. Though Missouri is one of the most relaxed states, it is still a “one-party consent” state. This means that you can only record someone’s conversation if at least one person involved in that conversation agrees. Yes, that person could be you. However, even here Missouri applies fairly liberal rules. For example, wire communications can only be recorded with the consent of at least one party, but if two people are conversing using two wireless devices (say, two cell phones), their conversation could be recorded without consent from either. Oral communications are likewise only covered under general privacy laws. Someone’s oral conversation can be recorded without their consent in any scenario where they can’t expect privacy. This could be a public place, or it could be in your home where would-be burglars may be having conspiratorial conversations. Either way, recording audio with your security cameras is a bit of a risk, but far less of one in Missouri than in most other states. Nevertheless, with audio, playing it safe is always the best option. Avoiding audio is typically the safest route to take, despite the chance at uncovering juicy gossip among thieves.
Safety During Missouri Natural Disasters
If you’re the type of person who has a general fear of Mother Nature, now may be the perfect time to pack up and hit the road. Missouri is not for you. Its location makes Missouri a troubled spot for natural disasters, many of which occur with some regularity. The Missouri Department of Public Safety notes that since 1990, the state has had 30 federal disaster declarations. We’ll give you a second to do the math…good. If you did your math correctly, you’ll note that that’s more than one declaration a year on average. Tornadoes are a major concern for the state, as well as severe winter storms, terribly raging thunderstorms and especially floods. Hail is also not uncommon. We wouldn’t be surprised if fire and brimstone made a cameo once every few decades, just to top off the list. If you live in the state or are thinking of moving there, you’ll want to consider a few security precautions for the worst of them.
Flooding in particular is a far-too-common occurrence in Missouri. The state is prone to floods due to having so many flat, low-lying areas and a lot of rivers and streams. Flood preparation involves knowing what you can and cannot do in a flood. You can escape before a flood hits your house. You can see early warning signs that a flood may be coming your way. What you should never do is approach flood waters, attempt to drive over roads that look like they might be flooded, and especially never try to swim in or drink water from a flood. Always have the essentials ready: Extra food, extra water, extra clothing and an escape plan in the case that you need to get out. If your home does become trapped, head to the top part of your house, moving as high as possible.
Tornadoes are probably the biggest concern for people living in the Show Me state. In this case, tornadoes are a case of “show me not”. Many scientists consider tornadoes to be the most violent storms that earth can produce. Winds can reach over 100 miles per hour in some tornadoes, and the funneling effect can create wind shears that can tear metal to pieces. Tornado safety starts with knowing where to go. If your house already has a storm shelter, that is going to be your first option. Alternatives will be cellars or basements. Areas with few windows are always best, as tornadoes will blast glass to pieces and send shards flying at high speeds. Hiding under and behind heavy objects is a safe bet as well. Tornados can quickly knock out power and block roads with downed trees and objects, so access to spare food, water and clothing is going to be a necessity. Also keep spare batteries along with flashlights in case things do go dark.
Missouri is an interesting place for the security conscious. It’s very easy to find a home security provider, but navigating local requirements might be a bit of a hassle. Still, the state can feel very free in many respects, particularly with the overall lack of regulations on the industry. Missouri may have its own history to blame for that one. At one time, Missouri was considered the gateway to the West. It stood at the middle ground between the explored and the unexplored, between civilization and the wild, western reaches of the unknown. It was a state where individuals could go to prove themselves to the world with minimal restrictions. Now it’s a great place for delicious BBQ. This may indeed be a very good compromise in our book.