Not so fast, says L.A. council

Proposed alarm program’s cost gives councilors pause
Monday, December 1, 2003

LOS ANGELES - If the Los Angeles City Council has its way, the compromise burglar alarm policy it adopted earlier this year, which was supposed to take effect Nov. 1, will be delayed.

A council committee learned in late October that the software necessary to track false alarms would cost $400,000 and wouldn’t be ready until 2005 because of the LAPD’s plan to change to a new computer system that year.

The city’s current dispatch system is capable of tracking false alarms, but the new system the city is planning to implement in the spring would require the expensive upgrade to do so.

According to the California Alarm Association, at the Nov. 3 meeting, the full council asked the Los Angeles Police Commission to wait at least 30 days before implementing the policy.

Under the policy, police would respond to two unverified burglar alarms at a home or business per year. Beyond that, alarms would need to be verified before police would respond.

Dan Koenig, executive director of the LAPC, suggested purchasing 12 to 16 laptop computers and outfitting them with the software to track alarm data. The computers would cost between $30,000 and $40,000.

“The police commission wants to try this policy out,” Koenig told Copley News Service. “But we may get down the road and see that it doesn’t work, so why spend half a million on it now?”

Attorney Les Gold of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, who represents the CAA and the Greater Los Angeles Security Alarm Association, said the sooner the issue is clarified, the better, so long as all parties are adequately prepared.

“We’re looking to implement the policy as soon as possible, so we can get some certainty,” he said. “We want the new policy to go into effect, but we also want to be prepared for it.”

It was not immediately clear if the LAPD would delay implementation of the policy, which would raise permit fees from the current $31 to $95. The policy would also raise false alarm fines for those with valid permits to $95 for the first offense, with escalating fines of $50 more per incident. Those without valid permits would pay $190 for the first offense and face escalating fines of $100 per incident.

According to the CAA, the city is unprepared to implement the new policy at present, even though police officers have been briefed about the policy.

Another issue that has plagued the process is how much the city would have to charge to recoup 100 percent of the costs associated with responding to false alarms.