Video verification: A police chief’s perspective

For law enforcement, the essential task for video verification technology is to maintain confidence that a priority response is needed, police chief says
 - 
Wednesday, August 6, 2014

HIGHLAND PARK, Texas— Law enforcement is taking an increasingly active role in shaping video verification alarm policies. Testament to this are the best practices recently completed by the Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response, which made law enforcement feedback a defining feature of the process.

While verified alarm proponents tout the technology’s ability to foil criminals and reduce false alarms, one police chief closely involved with that process warns that if jurisdictions do not follow best practices, the benefits of video verification may not be maximized.

Chris Vinson is the newly appointed head of the Texas Police Chiefs Association Alarm Committee, one of 12 law enforcement agencies closely involved in PPVAR’s best practices development process. Speaking to Security Systems News, he expressed optimism regarding the best practices and what kind of benefits law enforcement could reap from their adoption—particularly when it comes to stopping crimes in progress and apprehending criminals.

He said the key thing for the industry to understand about law enforcement’s perspective on video verification is that the alarms have to “maintain a level of confidence if they want to keep that level of priority.”

The best practices can help, Vinson says.

“If [video verified alarms] don’t all adhere to that type of practice then pretty soon, if we start responding to video alarms that are not an offense in progress, or something a reasonable person believed presented an immediate danger, every alarm gets relegated back to a low priority response,” he said. “The industry doesn’t want that, law enforcement doesn’t want that, and the customers out there don’t want that.”

Vinson, who is director of public safety for the town of Highland Park, Texas, near Dallas, acknowledged that while education efforts could spur broader adoption of PPVAR’s best practices, those involved had to be realistic for the time being, given that the decision to adopt or not would come down to the discretion of individual jurisdictions.

Vinson said efforts such as informing its membership that the Texas Police Chiefs Association stands in favor of the practices, or writing a position paper on why adopting the best practices could be a sound solution, are just a few good measures the organization can take on behalf of the cause.

When it comes to verification, Vinson believes there are still important discussions to be had between stakeholder groups over what qualifies as verification technology. Disagreements tend to be connected to the question of whether enhanced call verification (ECV) and cross-zoning should fall under the umbrella of verified technology.

Vinson says ECV methods and cross-zoning have proven effective at scaling back false alarms. But he doesn’t believe they qualify as verification technology.

“I think there’s a huge distinction between false alarm reduction and verification,” he said. “There’s a lot of things you can do to reduce false alarms, from enhanced call verification to cross-zoning, but when it comes down to actual verification, it’s really difficult to call anything else verification of an actual offense unless we have a witness on the scene or video an operator can see.”

According to Vinson, there’s a consensus forming around that idea in the law enforcement community, and the distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics.

“It’s not mere words,” he said. “There’s true meaning when we talk about verification.”

He added: “With verification, it gives law enforcement the confidence to respond at a higher priority. That makes all the difference in the world between just going to an alarm where there’s a break in here and we’re too late to do anything, versus showing up in time to catch somebody.”

Comments

Being on the PPVAR committee with Chief Vinson,  I agree, and I think that he speaks for the majority of the law enforcement community when he said:

"The key thing for the industry to understand about law enforcement’s perspective on video verification is that the alarms have to “maintain a level of confidence if they want to keep that level of priority.”

The "voluntary" adoption of best practices by the industry in the past has been a crapshoot. Voluntary adoption of best practices ends up being ear candy for appeasing law enforcement when they look at going to VR.  The industry needs to get it right this time with the video verification standard.

Other best practices such as ECV have been identified by the industry, but the proof is in the application of the best practices.  ECV has been around for years. ECV and other best practices are part of SIAC's Model Alarm Ordinance yet the majority of the companies big and small do not use ECV even when an ordinance mandates it.

I review CS history every week for subscribers in Phoenix that I am working up for an inspection and ECV is not being used the majority of the time.  Last month I testified at a review hearing on behalf of an alarm subscriber against an alarm company that failed to use ECV as mandated by the Phoenix Alarm Ordinance.  The alarm company was found responsible and ordered to pay 1056.00 in false alarm fines because they failed to use ECV. 

Time will tell.

Respectfully,

Detective H.W. Robbie Robinson
Phoenix. P.D. Alarm Inspections