Fight against no-response begins in Milwaukee

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

MILWAUKEE - This mid-western city has become the latest battleground over a plan by police to stop responding to burglar alarms, unless verified by a third party.

Alarm professionals first learned about the Milwaukee Police Department’s decision in July. Without prior notice or input from the security industry, the city’s new police chief drafted a policy that allows police to stop responding to burglar alarms on Sept. 19 unless verified by a guard company or third-party.

“Milwaukee has become a landmark battle,” explained Mike Horgan, the president of the Wisconsin Burglar & Fire Alarm Association. “This went on in Los Angeles, but this is mid-America.”

Horgan said a dozen other municipalities in the area have drafted policies, but are waiting to see how the battle plays out here, first. “They’re watching us,” he said.

The non-response issue is not new to the alarm industry. It’s been a battle brewing for several years. But in other communities, like Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, municipalities either assembled a task force to talk about the proposal before implementation or gave ample warning to local alarm companies.

Horgan said neither approach was taken, even though the plan will impact more than 45,000 owners of security systems. And it appears the no-response decision was based on the city wanting to save money, he said. The police department claims it lost $1.2 million in police time by responding to false burglar alarms.

Despite its efforts, the association made little progress in an initial meeting with local officials. Horgan called the meeting unproductive, but would still like to assemble a task force to talk about options.

The association is also looking into legal options, even though Police Chief Nanette Hagerty appears to have the power to issue a unilateral decision on response to burglar alarms. The association has hired an attorney, brought onboard a lobbyist and has begun a fund-raising campaign to support its efforts.