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The approach to false alarms

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Here at Security Systems News, we cover a variety of topics related to the physical security industry. As a result, we get to track trends in the industry; we see when they first come up and we see when they become more prevalent. The matter of false alarms is one that I can say I've been watching since I started with SSN.

Some municipalities have sought to fine alarm companies for users’ false alarms. In late 2014, shortly after I joined the publication, I was speaking with the Security Industry Alarm Coalition about the City of Chico, Calif., that passed an ordinance like this. The city then revised the ordinance after a response from SIAC and California Alarm Association.

More recently, Sandy Springs, Ga., also looked to bring fines for false alarms to the dealers.

California has now stepped in to stop alarm companies in the state from being fined for false alarms that the installation or the equipment didn’t directly cause. Read more about that here.

Security Systems News’ latest monthly News Poll asks about whether false alarm ordinances, particularly the ones that fine alarm dealers and installers, pose a large problem for the industry. Feel free to weigh in on that here. Additionally, feel free to share your thoughts on the best methods for reducing false alarms.

Different areas have taken different approaches to false alarms. In 2015, New Orleans considered outsourcing alarm fine collections to CryWolf, which specializes in issuing and collecting fines, permit fees, and compiling alarm system data. This is a practice that SIAC recommends.

Back in 2014, I spoke with another SIAC’s, Steve Keefer, about an interesting approach: using volunteers to reduce false alarm dispatches. These were “regular citizens that just want to help out in the community,” Keefer said, by notifying repeat false alarm offenders and discussing ways to reduce false alarms.

 

New California bill protects alarm companies from false alarm fines

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08/23/2017

MARINA DEL REY, Calif.—California Gov. Jerry Brown on July 31 signed AB 1616 by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian into law, bringing false alarm fines to the alarm permit holders, not alarm companies, unless the alarm company is responsible.

SIAC named for ESA Gives Back 2017

Coalition recognized its top donors at ESX
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07/05/2017

FRISCO, Texas—The Security Industry Alarm Coalition, a non-profit organization that works to reduce false alarms and maintain relationships between the alarm industry and law enforcement, was recognized as the 2017 ESA Gives Back beneficiary at this year’s ESX.

PPVAR makes headway in California

SIAC’s Stan Martin expects National Sheriff’s Association to join cause
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06/22/2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—More law enforcement organizations are recognizing the benefit of alarm verification; the California Police Chiefs Association board of directors adopted a resolution at its annual meeting that clarifies the term “verified alarm” and supports priority response.

Retired FBI agent joins SIAC

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11/20/2015

FRISCO, Texas—Bob Pence, a 30-year veteran of the FBI, joined the Security Industry Alarm Coalition on Nov. 1.

New Orleans looks toward CryWolf

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Orleans is looking at outsourcing its false alarm fine management and collections to CryWolf False Alarm Solution from Maryland-based Public Safety Corp, according to a report from The Times – Picayune for Greater New Orleans.

This particularly interested me because, just last week, I spoke with SIAC’s executive director, Stan Martin, about the process of automating false alarm fine collections, following a report that Pittsburgh was considering it.

When talking with Martin he said it was a great practice, one that SIAC recommends.

Martin said that increased collection efforts, through automating or outsourcing the process, can have a positive effect on reducing false alarms. Properly administrated fines provide offenders with an incentive to change their behavior.

I greatly look forward to following up with Public Safety Corp. about CryWolf and how it can help a city with false alarm management. CryWolf has worked with cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and Sante Fe, N.M., according to its site. 

Pittsburgh looks to automating false alarm fines

Stan Martin: SIAC advocates for this option
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09/16/2015

PITTSBURGH—Pittsburgh is looking at automating collections for false alarm fines, according to a recent NPR report.

Chico revises ordinance, stops fining alarm companies

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

In October, the City of Chico, Calif., passed an ordinance to fine alarm companies for false alarm dispatches. The California Alarm Association and SIAC responded, citing precedence in Fontana, Calif., where a similar ordinance was overturned. Now, the City of Chico has opted toward the standard action of fining alarm users for false alarms.

Jon Sargent in November told Security Systems News that SIAC remained available to help revise the ordinance.

SIAC is pleased with the outcome, Stan Martin, executive director for SIAC told me in an email interview.

Chico’s city council voted unanimously for the ordinance that fined alarm companies, and now it has voted unanimously to fine alarm users.

The new ordinance will fine alarm users $50 for the first false alarm, $100 for the second, and $200 for the third. The Chico Police Department can cease responding to repeat offenders, reported the Chico Enterprise-Record. The new ordinance also seeks alarm verification before dispatch.

The original ordinance proposed fining $100 to the alarm company after a first false alarm, and rising to $400 after consecutive false alarms.

“We are going to get a reduction in false alarms. That’s is what we wanted all along. If we get that, whether it’s the alarm user or the company, that is what we want,” Chico police Capt. Mike O’Brien said in the report. 

SIAC to keep a closer eye on local governments

Partnership with Stateside Associates to assist goal
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02/23/2015

FRISCO, Texas—SIAC on Feb. 9 started working with Stateside Associates, a state and local government affairs firm, to monitor pending ordinances that could affect the security industry.

SIAC follows up with Carson City

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

About two months ago, Security Systems News spoke with Steve Keefer, national law enforcement liaison for SIAC, about the unique way the Carson City Sheriff’s Department approaches false alarms; by utilizing volunteers. Since, Keefer followed up with this sheriff’s office and found that while false alarms have dropped, it is difficult to determine how the volunteers were involved.

Upon looking at the figures over all reductions, “I told the sheriff, ‘I bet you’re close to a fifty percent reduction in your commercial [false alarms],” Keefer told SSN. Yet, because of how the data was organized, the exact influence of this volunteer program can’t currently be determined, Keefer said.

Keefer gave the sheriff recommendations, such as hand-outs, like flyers and printed statistics, as well as a heavier focus on false panic and hold-up alarms. “Those are probably more problematic for a police department, because you’re not getting, traditionally, two officers going to a robbery or hold-up—you’re probably getting three or four.”

A primary reason for Keefer’s follow-up was to investigate the viability this practice might hold for other jurisdictions, perhaps to be incorporated into SIAC’s recommended practices.

A positive aspect of this program is the small commitment for volunteers, Keefer said; they could finish a month’s duties in four hours, across two days. “It’s not draining by any means.”

According to Keefer, the city of 55,000 people saw about 1,300 false alarms last year. These false alarms are split about 70 percent commercial and 30 percent residential. While these volunteers exclusively visit commercial offenders, Keefer underlined that this method could benefit the residential sector as well.

The volunteers, a husband-and-wife pair, only visit businesses that have received two or more false alarms in a given month, totaling about 10 to 15 per month.

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