Municipality, alarm company bend rules to bag battery store bad guys

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

OLYMPIA, Wash.—The Olympia Police Department and nearby Lacey, Wash.-based alarm company Custom Security Systems recently worked together in a successful sting-operation to protect citizens and to put an end to repeated losses perpetrated by serial burglars at a local battery store, Interstate Batteries.

Dick Machlan, manager of the Administrative Services Division for the OPD, said the goal of teaming with Custom Security Systems was to create a plan that would allow the business to, unbeknownst to the criminals, increase security without fear of accumulating alarm fees while the sting-operation was in effect. “What we agreed to do was, for a period of time for the business, to wave any false alarm fees that they might incur and allow the alarm company to install this more risky equipment to see if we would be successful at catching these guys,” Machlan said. “The reason we did this was because we knew that in putting in this equipment the business would be exposed to more risk of fees than they would normally take on.”

Custom Security Systems project and product manager BJ Swidecki said the teaming was an unqualified success. “It worked very successfully. We had had a meeting with the city of Olympia and they suggested that if we thought they could ever be of more help that we should let them know. And so we did. We went ahead and did some outdoor optics beams,” Swidecki said, explaining the OPD checked out every alarm—many of which were false—from the ultra sensitive equipment. “They were Johnny-on-the-spot,” he continued, noting that eventually, the perimeter beams paid off with the apprehension of two men who had been breaking in over the period of several months, stealing batteries and then reselling them.

The alarm program in Olympia was first instituted in 2005 and requires that alarm companies and their customers work together to ensure that the proper two-call verification procedure is followed, alarm equipment is in good working order, and that customers are trained on how to use their equipment correctly.

Machlan said, overall, it was cooperation between all parties involved that made the difference. “We have done this kind of cooperation in the past and it hasn’t panned out. But this was different. Any time you catch the bad guys it’s a success,” Machlan said. “We have had tremendous success working with the industry to reduce false alarms, and in this case to catch some criminals.”

The successful collaboration was cited as an example for the rest of the country by the SIAC.