If you can trust a bunch of burglars to give you the straight scoop on how to keep them out of your home or business, then you may want to consider trading in your cheap burglar alarm for an expensive pit bull or Doberman.

According to a study by Figgie International, the Fortune 500 company that has a hand in a wide variety of businesses, criminals are unimpressed by many home and business security measures.Figgie asked 589 Ohio prison inmates doing time for property crimes what law-abiding folks can do to keep them away. They said your best bet, especially if you live in a high-crime neighorhood, is to get a dog or dogs - the more barks and growls coming from inside the better. And, of course, the bigger those dogs sound, the more likely Mr. Burglar will decide to give your place a pass.

Burglar alarms, on the other hand, are of value only if they are connected to the local police station, the convicts said. If not, they probably won't help.

Figgie said it sponsored the study - "The Figgie Report Part VI - The Business of Crime: The Criminal Perspective" as a public service to determine the effectiveness of various crime prevention measures. One thing that doesn't need to be determined is the cost of property crime to citizens and businesses: close to $12 billion annually, of which only about $4 billion is recovered through insurance or other means.

Like most things in life, the report found that you get what you pay for in property protection. The prison inmates said the most effective anti-theft devices are also the most expensive.

The highest rated items, in order, were burglar alarms connected to law enforcement agencies, electronic window sensors, closed circuit TV cameras, and security patrols.

Dogs, the most effective item available to average citizens, was rated fifth. However, when the inmates were asked their advice for protecting a home in a high-crime neighborhood, the number-one answer was dogs, followed by alarm systems. The third most popular response? Move out.

When the offenders were asked how a low-income person could protect a home, dogs were again the top answer, followed by guns. In the event you don't have either, the offenders said, stay home.

Among the other items they were asked to rate, weapons, guardhouses, police foot patrols and exterior lighting were all judged to be somewhat effective.

The item rated lease effective was permanently marking valuables with owner identification. Automatic (timed) interor lights, deadbolt locks, alarms not attached to law enforcement, safes and strong boxes, and neighborhood block watch programs all received low scores.

Asked what they would to do if a home or business they targeted was protected by some sort of security device, a quarter of them said they would hit that target anyway, perhaps at a later date.

Three-fourths said they would simply substitute another target in the same or other neighborhood. In other words, the security measures may decrease the likelihood of property crime at a particular site without affecting the overall crime rate in the surrounding area.

A Figgie spokesman said the purpose of the report was to learn which factors criminals weigh in determining whether to commit a property crime and how property owners might manipulate those factors to make them decide not to.

"The basic idea behind home and business security measures is to increase the cost of crime by increasing the chances the criminal will be caught," said Gerald Swanson, a University of Arizona economist who was a co-director of the research team.

"The inmates have told us which methods increase their costs the most, and these are basically the methods that are most likely to keep them from committing crimes."