Marietta implements model ordinance, sees major false alarm reduction

Report shows link to drop in overall crime
Thursday, February 4, 2010

ATLANTA—Marietta, Ga. Chief of Police Dan Flynn, at the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police Winter Conference held here, presented a report proving that industry/municipality cooperation on a false alarm ordinance had paid off in his city through an overall false alarm reduction of 65 percent in the last four years. Further, the report suggests the overall reduction in calls for service, or CFS, has led to a drop in overall crime since officers have been freed to spend their valuable time on proactive crime prevention.

According to the report, when officers are freed from having to respond to wasteful false alarms they can focus on their real job. “Marietta police officers have been trained and instructed to use their additional unobligated patrol time for proactive crime prevention activities,” the report reads. “With a new departmental emphasis on the use of field interview cards and photos of individuals engaged in articulated suspicious behaviors, there has been a gradual shift from officers being incident-driven, i.e., primarily responding to calls for service, to being analysis-driven, i.e., conducting proactive crime prevention activities in areas with higher crime trends.” This shift in focus of officer time is evident in a nearly 19 percent drop in felony crimes from 2006 to the end of 2009. The report notes that while “the causes of crime and crime rates tend to be multi-faceted, crime rates in Marietta have been dropping at the same time false alarms and calls for service have been dropping.”

Flynn said the importance of streamlined officer time cannot be overestimated. “Right now, revenues coming into cities and towns are way down. So we’re furloughing officers and we have hiring freezes,” Flynn said. “If we can economize how we use our officers during a period when they’re at a premium, I think that’s a pretty timely solution.”

SIAC national law enforcement liaison Glen Mowrey, who worked with Flynn on the Alarm Management Committee to implement Marietta’s ordinance in 2008—based on SIAC’s model ordinance—felt Marietta was a good example of a successful partnership. “With that model ordinance, they always have the questions: ‘How’d you come up with this? How’d you get here? Where’d you get this from?’ When we can tell city council that this is a model that’s approved by resolution for use by the Georgia Police Chiefs Association, it jumps through their legal hoops and makes quite an impact. They go, ‘This is something that’s going to be good for us.’” Mowrey said. “We were able to answer everyone’s questions. The industry helped register all the customers and the results have just been phenomenal. This has been a great success.”

Flynn echoed Mowrey’s assessment. “Private industry, in this case the alarm industry, through their professional organizations can work in harmony with the municipality and the police synergistically and the outcome is good for the community,” he said. “Yeah, it’s good that we’ve drastically reduced false alarms and we’ve reduced calls for service and crime has gone down, but there’s a bigger lesson here. To me the greatest success here is that we can work together congruently for the good of everyone.”