April 2015 Educate Engage

Crime Prevention: 40 Years of Reliability & Service

Written By: Erica Brown

When Randi Elrad and John Pastore were a young couple in 1975, John was planning to go to medical school, and Randi was a special education teacher.

While he was doing undergraduate work at the University of Florida, John worked as a researcher in rheumatoid arthritis at UF – which required him to collect data from samples at various hours of the night.

“I couldn’t sleep a minute when he was gone during the night, and I wanted something to help me feel safe,” Elrad said.

The couple discovered a simple device that detected high frequency sounds such as breaking glass, triggering a siren. After buying the device by mail order for themselves, they took out ads to sell it.

When they were hiring an installer, one of the applicants told them that he had operated a security company in North Carolina for 10 years. He had just sold his business and moved to Gainesville to study computer science at the University of Florida.

“We sat at our kitchen table, and he offered to help us get into the home security business,” Elrad said. “We were incredibly poor. All we had was a little advertising, the licenses we needed and a lot of prayer.”

In the 40 years since starting their company, Crime Prevention Security Systems & Custom Home Entertainment, Elrad and Pastore have seen it grow into one of the 100 largest security companies in the United States – with more than 12,000 monitoring customers and over 100 employees.

They attribute their success to building trust with their customers. “If you’re not doing good work, you’re not going to be around in Gainesville for 40 years,” Pastore said.

Crime Prevention has been operating its own monitoring center since 1996. A major improvement came in 2009 when the company developed a second monitoring center with Atlanta-based EMC Security, and linked the two monitoring centers — creating two redundant monitoring centers, Pastore said.

Crime Prevention’s local monitoring center responds remarkably quickly to alarms – with an average of 11 seconds for an operator to be on the phone compared to the national average of 45 seconds.

“The buck stops here,” Elrad said. “We’re able to treat our customers like we would like to be treated and provide them with peace of mind.”

The company began installing whole-house entertainment systems when it opened its current office, located at 4701 SW 34th St., in 2004. “We built a home theater showroom because people need to be able to put their hands on entertainment equipment to get a feel for it,” Pastore said.

The company sets up “smart home” systems that enable people to monitor and control lights, doors and thermostats from their smartphones.

This technology was important to the Community Foundation of North Central Florida when it moved into its new office at 3919 W Newberry Road, said President and CEO Barzella Papa.

“We have many groups using our meeting room, and Crime Prevention set up a system that gives each of them codes for the locks and security system,” she said. “I can check to be sure everything is locked up, the lights are out and the thermostat adjusted from my phone.”

Crime Prevention is moving to the next generation of technology with the help of the next generation of the Pastore family – daughters Jorgia McAfee, who is vice president of development, and Jessica McKinney, who is vice president of operations.

“It’s great to have young, brilliant minds that can carry our company into the future,” Elrad said.

Another part of the company is McAfee’s husband, Bobby, who is the marketing director.

Bobby sees many benefits of the family members working together.

“We’re always problem-solving at meals,” he said. “If an employee makes a suggestion in the morning, we can discuss it at lunch and implement it the same day. There’s no red tape.”

Crime Prevention strives to make its security monitoring highly reliable.

All new installations send information to the monitoring center wirelessly, eliminating malfunctions due to cut phone or cable lines. Crime Prevention offers low prices for existing customers with landlines to switch to wireless service.

Crime Prevention opened the Orlando office in 2012, and it is growing rapidly. “There’s more competion from national companies in Orlando, but we have received a warm welcome because many people want to buy local,” Bobby McAfee said.

This year alone, the company has sponsored or participated in events benefitting the Education Foundation of Alachua County, LifeSouth, The Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County, Girls Place and the Children’s Home Society.

Co-owner Randi Elrad is on the board of the Builders Association of North Central Florida, and she is one of the organization’s most active members.

The Rotary Club of Gainesville presented the company its Ethics in Business Award in 2012.

The company has received many honors. Business in the Heart of Florida presented co-owner Randi Elrad with an Impact Award in December 2014, Vice President of Development Jorgia McAfee with a 40 Under 40 Award in 2013, and HOME: Living In the Heart of Florida presented Jessica McKinney with a 13 going on 30 award in 2010.

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