Peak’s Central station manager’s trial delayed

SSN Staff  - 
Thursday, January 1, 2004

SALT LAKE CITY - Those in the industry who had marked Dec. 17 on their calendars as the date of the trial of Jeff Howe, central station manager for Peak Alarm, will have to wait until spring for any resolution.

According to Shanna Werner, who heads the Salt Lake City Police Department’s alarm division, the case has been continued until April, per the city prosecutor’s request. She said no specific date was available at this time, but that she was “surprised it was so far in advance.”

Howe has been charged with filing a false police report under the city’s verified response ordinance.

Ron Walters of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, who has been in touch with Howe, said the charges have been reduced to eliminate the potential for jail time, in exchange for Howe’s waiving his right to a jury trial. Prior to this agreement, if convicted of the Class B misdemeanor, Howe faced up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

As reported in the November issue of Security Systems News, Howe called a local school to verify an alarm and was told by the person who answered the phone that there were two unauthorized people in the building. That person also asked that police be dispatched to the school.

When police arrived, they found no evidence that a crime had been committed, so Howe was arrested, Werner said. Under Salt Lake City’s ordinance, alarm companies are required to dispatch a private guard to a scene to confirm a criminal event before police are called.

Neither Howe nor his attorney could be reached for comment by press time.

The delay means the industry will have to wait a few more months to see how this case is decided. Some, like Bob Neely, executive director of the Alarm Association of Florida, fear that this case could be a bellwether for municipalities across the country to make similar arrests. However, Neely said, whether successful or not, this case has already made an impact on central stations.

“There will be a seismic shift in the industry if this prosecution is successful,” Neely said. “And even if it is not, it still portends very bad things for the future of alarm dispatching.”

According to industry watcher Lee Jones of Support Services Group, the city of Los Angles has toyed with the idea of pursuing similar criminal action against central station employees who dispatch police for alarms that turn out to be false.