Meet me in St. Louis

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

This issue of Security Systems News has made one thing very clear: Verified response is the boogeyman hanging out in the alarm industry's closet. Every time its head pops out, everybody dives under the blankets, sticks their fingers in their ears, and yells, "You're not really there." Recently, Sonitrol (who has a vested interest in verified alarms) released a white paper citing some people in law enforcement who were actually pleased with verified response. Before I had retrieved the thing from the office printer, SIAC and the NBFAA had issued statements with some strong language condemning it.
My goodness: "The study is a last desperate attempt to breathe life into an outdated concept that has been rejected by the vast majority of the law enforcement community." So said SIAC.
Come on folks. This is the security industry. Isn't it obvious that the best way to avoid a move to verified response isn't loud rhetoric, but rather a very expensive lock on that boogeyman's door?
Take the case of St. Louis, which just observed the one-year anniversary of a new false-alarm-reduction ordinance that requires alarm ID numbers, permits and increases the fine schedule for repeated false alarms, all of which is administered by the alarm companies themselves. That's right. The companies issue the permits, collect the money, and a third-party administration company, APB Services, issues and collects the fines.
And you know what? They're happy to do it. Why? Because it's not verified response, the tactic the city threatened to use to reduce false alarms.
"All in all," said John Butler, owner of Butler/Durrell Security and the president of the St. Louis Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, "it's a good story."
But, he said, "One of the reasons it's a good story is because the [St. Louis] alarm association hired a lobbyist, and he was very good at navigating the city's systems ... The best part of the story was the understanding we gained that if you get a call and they're going to be reading the ordinance tonight at the city council meeting, you're sunk ... You have to have a bit of money, and you have to be in front of it and not be behind it. They listen to you at those meetings, but all the board members have probably already made a decision, and it's probably not in your favor."
The alarm industry in St. Louis understood the city's frustration with false alarms, invested in helping the city solve the problem, and now boasts a 40 percent reduction in false dispatches in one year as a return on that investment. And verified response is now a distant memory. "The police department is happy," Butler said.
Of course, I know that SIAC and the NBFAA are well invested in lobbying and working with government on this issue, but hyperbolic rhetoric and the disparagement of police departments that do use verified response doesn't help the cause any more than hiding under the covers.