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false alarms

New Orleans looks toward CryWolf

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 connections, 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. 

Chico revises ordinance, stops fining alarm companies

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 please 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 follows up with Carson City

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.

Volunteers fighting false alarms in Nevada

Carson City pioneering new approach

CARSON CITY, Nev.—The sheriff’s office here is using volunteers to reduce false alarm dispatches, an approach new to the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, SIAC says.

CAA fights Chico on ordinance

Ordinance requires false alarm fines for alarm companies

CHICO, Calif.—The California Alarm Association (CAA) and the Sacramento Area Alarm Association (SAAA) are filing a lawsuit against the city of Chico, Calif., after the city on Oct. 21 unanimously passed an ordinance that fines alarm companies for false alarms.

Registries and fines in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lately it seems that the St. Petersburg Police Department has been looking closely at the matter of security. Two separate items have cropped up in this city just outside of Tampa, Fla. The first is that they are compiling a registry for security cameras in the city.

This initiative, called ‘Eagle Eye,’ allows for cameras to be registered online through the St. Petersburg Police Department’s website. By having a comprehensive list of cameras in the city, the department hopes to gain quick access to clues in investigations. A press release from the department says the registration will be at “no cost and the information is kept confidential.”

The second item is that they are looking to raise the fines for false alarms, an issue posted on Nov. 22 on the website of a local paper, The St. Petersburg Tribune. Though, even after seeing a drop in false alarm numbers since the fine’s installation in 1995, false alarms are still a problem for the department.

The idea of registry comes up in this matter also. The police department hopes that by eliminating fees for end users in registering alarms, as well as renewing their alarms—more people will register, giving the police a better idea of who to contact in the event of an alarm.

California city institutes new alarm policy


CHICO, Calif.—Starting June 15, this California city will no longer respond to unconfirmed burglar alarm systems in the city, according to a news release from the California Alarm Association.

Toronto police considering non-response

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Toronto, the largest city in Canada, is mulling the possibility of not responding to private alarms, citing a false alarm rate that looks bad even within that context.

According to a report from the Toronto Star, just 300 of the 20,000 private alarm calls Toronto police responded to in 2012 turned out to be legitimate. As a result, an internal police steering committee is reviewing the cost-savings that could be reaped by scaling back on alarm response (among other services), the report said.  

By doing so, the committee estimates the police force could realize $613,222 in savings, according to the report. That amounts to 10,960 officer hours.

Additionally, the committee recommended police stop taking reports on lost or stolen property whose value does not exceed $500.

From a law enforcement perspective, it’s sensible to do away with writing redundant reports for lost property, particularly when other institutions are better suited to deal with such events. But what could a non-response policy portend for alarm companies who would then have to provide private response services themselves? Not only do companies stand to incur the costs associated with this; they also stand to lose what many in the industry view as the most vital element of the value proposition of an alarm system—the guarantee of police response in the event of a legitimate alarm.  

False alarms (and what to do about them) remain among the most polarizing issues in the alarm industry today. It continues to define, and sometimes roil, the relationship between private alarm companies and law enforcement.

So what’s can be done? The theories about how to mitigate false alarms tend to diverge and dovetail, making the issue especially complex and difficult to navigate, much less reach a conclusion on. Some believe a clear and properly enforced ordinance, bolstered by measures such as cross-zoning and enhanced call verification, will do the trick, with fines for offending alarms helping to offset the losses. Others say private response is the inevitable long-term solution.

Others still, such as PPVAR, believe the relationship between law enforcement and the industry can and should remain intact so long as the alarm installed base evolves technologically and municipalities move toward a verified response approach (that's not to say the industry is in full agreement over what constitutes a verified alarm). The organization also espouses new video verification standards.

The issue continues to be a fraught one, with no definite solution in sight. To be sure, many cities have made great strides with false alarm reduction. But cases such as Toronto are a resounding reminder that there’s room for improvement.

SIAC urges compliance with best practices to avoid false panic alarms


FRISCO, Texas—The Security Industry Alarm Coalition, a North American industry organization focused on alarm management, is urging the use of best practices to reduce false panic alarms triggered by key fobs, according to a news release.

Washington city may begin charging for false alarms


MERCER ISLAND CITY, Wash.—Police in this city near Seattle have responded to an average of 858 false alarms annually over the past three years, with about 300 believed to be repeat offenders, according to a report from the Mercer Island Reporter, a newspaper based here.