Following up on the Detroit verified response issue

 - 
08/25/2011

So I blogged last week about Detroit's decision--effective Monday, Aug. 22--to no longer respond to unverified alarms. I wrote a story last year about the city working cooperatively and successfully with SIAC to enact an ECV policy, an outcome the guys at SIAC called a victory given that the alternative was a much more severe verified response policy.

Well, less than a year later here we are stifling that sigh of relief as Detroit goes ahead and enacts the tougher of the two options.

What's the difference you might ask between ECV and VR?

Both aim to reduce needless police dispatch by requiring the alarm company to take certain actions before calling the police to dispatch to the alarmed premise. However, ECV doesn't require visual (either in person or via video) or auditory proof of a  break in or crime in progress. It only requires more than one call to multiple numbers be made to ascertain if the alarm activation was accidental or not. Verified response is something I've written about numerous times, covering companies like Cernium, RSI, Sonitrol, and Provident.

Since I wrote that blog about Detroit's move to a more strict policy, I've reached out to and heard back from SIAC, have picked up some chatter about the policy change on the ACCENT Listsrv and have left voice mails with the Detroit PD.

Here's what some are saying on ACCENT:

From Mike Riley (csguru@wideopenwest.com):

All,

In case you had not heard Detroit has instituted a new policy for burg disp.

Details attached (If Accent will allow a pdf attachment) however in short Detroit will only respond as follows:

1) Someone has confirmed from the premise that the PD are required

2) Remote video or audio verification that PD are required

3) Multiple Alarm Trips

A) 1 Perimeter AND 1 interior alarm activation,

B) 3 or more interior trips.

If either of these are cause for a dispatch an email with alarm activity is supposed to be sent to a specific address @ DPD. "Upon receipt of a verified alarm, the EC shall immediately enter the information into the CAD system for police response."

If the attachment doesn’t work and you would like a copy email me and I will send it.

I've got that letter from the DPD to alarm companies right here. It explains their policy and gives you a contact at the DPD for further questions. His name's Commander Todd Bettison. I've spoken with him before. He's a good guy who's willing to talk. Shoot him an email or give him a call at 313-596-5402.

Jeff Smith (jsmith@midstatesecurity.com) had the following to say about changes in Detroit:

You also can get updated information as it happens at: http://bfaam.org/

The Burglar and Fire Alarm Association of Michigan as well as SIAC is actively working on this and hopefully either repeal it or have the policy at least rethought. It creates a public safety issue with alarm owners having to respond to their own alarms. There is of course the guard response possibility, but getting people to pay for that or even put in cameras to verify that there is a crime is an expensive endeavor for most.

I can affirm that SIAC is still at work in Detroit since executive director Stan Martin got back to my inquiry right away:

Dan, Yes we're still working Detroit. But it is a very tough situation. Right now they are enforcing the policy change and I do believe they are putting citizens at unnecessary risk by not allowing a longer period of transition. We've appealed to the mayor to work with us, restore response and let us bring to fruition a plan we set in place over a year ago... that includes an ordinance that would provide $2million plus in revenue to the city while continuing to reduce alarm dispatches. We're confident that we can achieve 60-80% in those dispatches, targeting the chronic abusers and not the 80% of the systems that have one or less dispatches per year.

We recognize Detroit has serious issues and want to work with them. There are no plans for any alarm industry coordinated efforts to throw gasoline on this volatile situation by stirring up the alarm customers. Every alarm company has an ethical if not contractual duty to notify their customers of this change and give them options. SIAC does not recommend inflammatory rhetoric be included in that communication, only the facts and options.

Sounds like good advice: cooperation is always best.

Back over to ACCENT. Bob Dolph expresses concern about having alarm company employees or end users showing up to verify alarms.

Is the public aware that the PD is requiring that a civilian stay on location once they have reported the crime?  Sound very dangerous to me.

Having alarm company personnel respond to the facility is crazy. I remember a similar requirement in Milwaukee many years ago. The alarm company did not hold a key most of the time, but still had to show up. Police would ask why I was there and I said because you said I had to be. They would ask me to open up the premises and I would simply say I do not have a key. There were several times that I accidentally walked in to a police shotgun. What are they thinking?

As we all know there are model ordinances that can reduce false alarms. Maybe some day they will listen to the security professionals. NOT!!

In my early years in the industry we had a police department complain about false alarms. In a meeting with them I simply asked, If all alarms systems were turned off and you had to have a police officer on every street corner, how many extra personnel do you think you would have to hire? Sometimes they have to remember the overall public service alarm systems provide.

Bob

I've written about this before. Having end users respond to alarms is ludicrous. I interviewed Mike Jagger last year for a market trends piece I did on alarm verification.

Sending a client to investigate their own alarm is both dangerous and stupid. Sending the Police to respond to every alarm is both stupid and a colossal waste of taxpayers' money. Nevertheless, thousands of times a day, alarm companies do both. This isn't a two option only situation. There are many ways to provide safe and efficient verification, either using properly trained guards providing immediate response or using technology. Either option works. At some stage, alarm companies need to take responsibility for the service that is being provided and acknowledge that professional response, or at least technical verification, is an essential part of providing a real service. Sending a client into a potentially dangerous situation is half-assed. Collecting money for it is worse. Using it as an example as to why Police departments should fund our service delivery model is criminal.

Strong words? Maybe, but aren't they (at least a little) true? Mike also spoke with SSN editor Martha at ISC West last year and explained that proactive verification and could be a real opportunity to increase positive contact with end users on a regular basis. Regardless of how you view it, change is coming.

I'll update or add a new post when and if I hear back from the DPD.