Manteca, Calif., considers verified response

Thursday, February 5, 2009

MANTECA, Calif.--The Manteca City Council met Feb. 3 at the Civic Center here to discuss proposed changes to the city's current false alarm ordinance. There was general agreement on a move that would drop allowable false alarms from two per month to two per year. However, there was contention over a proposed move to verified response, and the ordinance change was tabled until a March 3 meeting so that industry representatives could discuss the matter further with Manteca Police Chief Dave Briker, who proposed the changes.

According to Security Industry Alarm Coalition director Ron Walters, the free false alarm reduction is needed. "It's excessive," Walters said. "We've found that two at the most and one is sufficient. That's what's recommended now, what's recommended by the industry, by the model ordinance."

Briker agrees: "It had been around since Moses was a child and they just never changed it, and so it was time to look at modifying the ordinance."

Proposed fine increases are sizeable, as well. The old ordinance assessed a $50 fine for false alarms three, four and five in a month. The new ordinance proposes a fine of $100 for false alarm three, $200 for number four, and $400 for the fifth false alarm in a year. Walters felt that was warranted.

More worrisome to the industry than increased fines, however was the proposal by Chief Briker to switch Manteca to verified response. According to California Alarm Association immediate past president Jon Sargent, who is also SIAC industry/law enforcement liaison and ADT head of industry relations-West, verified response is generally a bad idea. "The truth is, verified response has been implemented in a handful of cities, and already six municipalities have thrown it out," said Sargent, who attended the meeting and spoke with Chief Briker on behelf of SIAC. "We feel it's just too intense to impose it across the board on all of the citizens in the community, because there are citizens who aren't having false alarms." Sargent said he was impressed with the Manteca Police Chief's willingness to listen to industry concerns. "[Briker's] opened up an interesting area in addition to verification by an eyewitness, which could be a neighbor or a guard, as well as audio and video verification, he's also proposed in the policy to allow multiple zone trips. So if you get more than one zone trip, they would consider that verified."

Briker said for now the old ordinance will remain in force while he and industry representatives try and work out a mutually agreeable resolution prior to March 3. "There were several industry folks there and they were very supportive of the ordinance. We tried to use the alarm industry model ordinance to base ours on," Briker said. "There are a couple suggestions that [industry representatives] had that they would like to see added into the ordinance that we're going to look at."

According to Briker, the goal of the developing ordinance from the point of view of the MPD is to save officers time. "To be one hundred percent honest, our goal at the police level is not to reduce false alarms. That's the purview of the alarm industry. Our goal is to reduce the number of false alarms that police have to respond to. So if the alarm industry is able to accomplish that for us, we're just as happy."