Marlboro, N.J., now competing with the industry for customers

Town has no obligation to the end user, says industry professional
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

MARLBORO, N.J.—Following up on a 2009 story from Security Systems News, the police department here began a direct mail marketing push Feb. 2 with the aim of taking business away from the local alarm monitoring industry. And the victim, according to at least one industry observer, could be the customer.

According to industry attorney Ken Kirschenbaum, of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, PC, the MPD will have no obligation to the monitored customer whatsoever. In his Feb. 18 edition of Alarm—Security Industry Legal Email Newsletter, Kirshenbaum takes issue with the contract the town has new residential monitoring customers sign. “The owner is required to indemnify the Township and hold it harmless for any damages ‘arising out of the issuance of the Digital Alarm Console Permit and the connection of the Alarm System to the Digital Alarm Console.’ The contract provides that the cops don’t have to inspect or maintain any alarm system. The cops can require the owner to have the alarm inspected by ‘an alarm business that will provide a certification that the defect or malfunction has been corrected,’” Kirschenbaum said in his email newsletter. “If it turns out that the owner is not using the alarm system correctly the cops can require that the owner get trained in the use of the alarm system by an alarm company. Failure to comply—monitoring is disconnected. What then does the Police Department have to do?”

SIAC director Ron Walters agreed. “When you have a municipality going into competition in any field with the private sector there needs to be a level playing field. This certainly is not representative of a level playing field,” Walters said in an email interview. “The city will still require the end user to have the alarm industry perform all maintenance as well as to make reports back that the work has been done. These tasks return low or no profits to the industry and I predict that many companies will eventually elect not to provide these services in this municipality.”

Another possibly unfair advantage the police have is that those who don’t pay their bills are told they’ll be remanded to the courts after 90 days.

Walters said the situation could eventually end up costing the city more money through increased call load due to improperly maintained systems than the municipality collects in monitoring fees. Attrition would eventually follow.

The Marlboro Police, concurrent with the Feb. 2 Direct Connect Monitoring mailing, launched a new section of its web site dedicated to its alarm monitoring business, and to educating residents about the “Direct Connect” difference. “One of the main differences between alarm systems is based on monitoring. Direct Monitoring with the Marlboro Township Police Department allows for direct monitoring from the police department. This means that the signal goes straight from your residence to our dispatch center via your telephone line,” the site reads. “Another option for the monitoring of your alarm system is to have the alarm monitored by an agency outside of the Marlboro Township Police Department. This would mean that your signal goes from the alarm system in your home, via the telephone line, to a remote site that has monitoring personnel. Once received at the remote monitoring site, that person receives the information and relays it, via a second telephone call, to the Marlboro Township Police Department. The issues with this type of monitoring are the inherent delay of contact to the police by a third party monitoring service.”

The cost for becoming a Marlboro Direct Connect Monitoring customer are as follows: $270 per year along with a one time $25 connection fee. A total of $295 is due at signing. The annual fee for Direct Connect after this initial signing will be $270 per year and billing will be due by the end of the month of your contract date for each year. A $10 a year registration fee—levied if a resident decides to go with a private monitoring center—is waived for Direct Connect members. A late fee of $5 for payments received one to 30 days after the customer’s contract date. The late fee is increased to $10 from the 31st day to the 60th day and to $20 from the 61st day to the 90th day. After 90 days the penalty is assessed by the court.