Non-response a hot topic in Los Angeles

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Saturday, February 1, 2003

LOS ANGELES - After hearing protests from alarm industry representatives, the Los Angeles City Council voted 12-1 on Jan. 14 to delay the implementation of a controversial non-response policy recently approved by the Los Angeles police commission.

Under the proposed policy, police would respond to a burglar alarm only if an eyewitness or video had verified the alarm.

The policy would not apply to human-activated panic alarms and burglar alarms at the city’s gun shops. Those alarms would still elicit a police response.

The vote means that the city council now has 21 days to hold hearings and either reject the new policy, which would require a two-thirds vote of the council, or let it stand.

Along with concerned residents, the alarm industry lobbied extensively against the new policy, and industry officials said they believed their efforts played a large role in the city council’s vote.

“It’s probably the best example of the industry coming together and really working the problem,” said Steve Doyle, executive director of the Central Station Alarm Association.

The proposed policy, which was approved by the Los Angeles police commission on Jan. 7, raised the ire of many in the alarm industry who quickly moved to condemn the change.

“It’s a real shame that they’ve gone this route…they really should have come to the industry (and tried to work out a policy),” said Doyle. “They don’t stop to consider the consequences.”

According to Doyle, the CSAA has attempted to work with the police to curb false alarms.

“We have always been for reasonable measures,” Doyle said. “Our members have all pledged to verify (alarm calls). Most of them are now double verifying to eliminate false alarms…We’ve done an awful lot (to reduce false alarms).”

Doyle said the industry has proposed several alternatives to a nonresponse policy. For a start, he suggests “reasonable steps and measures to bring things under control without taking Draconian steps that affect not only the industry but the protected folks too.”

Les Gold, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing the industry, said in his opinion, the police commission did not have the authority to establish this policy.

“In our opinion, what they’ve done is not constitutional because effectively they’re amending the city ordinance which can only be done by the city council,” said Gold.

According to Gold, the present city ordinance specifies that either a physical or telephonic verification is necessary for police response. The new policy would eliminate the telephonic response. “Which would require an amendment to the ordinance, in our opinion,” said Gold.

According to Gold, if the council decided to approve the policy, alarm industry leaders in Los Angeles are prepared to do whatever they can to continue the fight.

If the council and the alarm industry are not able to reach a compromise, “the industry is going to seek to get a restraining order and then go after the constitutional issues,” Gold said.