Phoenix metro area moving to verified response?

Municipalities see coming trend of fining alarm companies for false alarms
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Monday, May 17, 2010

AVONDALE, Ariz. and GOODYEAR, Ariz.—The police departments in these two Arizona municipalities have been looking at their respective false alarm ordinances and thinking about change. And that may not be good for the local security industry.

The Goodyear Police on March 8 asked the City Council to consider enacting a new verified response policy that would require multiple alarms or varying alarm origins, verification by an on-scene alarm company, monitored audio or video verification solutions like those from Sonitrol and Videofied, or witness reports of glass breakage or suspicious activity in order to trigger dispatch. The requested changes would also shift verifying responsibility to the alarm company or monitoring company instead of end users and would make the company responsible for the cost of false-alarm calls.

Goodyear Police Chief Mark Brown said nothing has been decided yet and that many municipalities in the area are all watching each other to see who will be the first to go to verified response. “Our research has been looking at what other states have done, and we’ve got about 10 cities in the metro Phoenix area who are ready to go to verified response. We just may go first,” Brown said. “And we’re looking at everything from research from the international association of the chiefs of police—studies done by them—we’re looking at the state of Colorado—Lakewood, Arvada—those cities that have had verified alarms and have had them for more than a decade. We’re looking at what Las Vegas does. Fontana, California’s another one that’s done this. And we’re looking at the success they’ve had with this.”

Arizona Alarm Association president Maria Malice said the AzAA along with SIAC executive director Stan Martin have met with representatives of both municipalities. “We really want to work with them,” Malice said. “With more and more cities waiting to see who’s going to be first to go verified response it’s critical that we be there working with them.”

The Avondale City Council on May 10 met to discuss the possibility of adopting a verified response policy. According to Malice, they have since advised the police department and the city manager to prepare an RFP for third-party administration of the false alarm program and draft a new ordinance that would require enhanced call verification, as well as place responsibility for false alarm fees on the alarm company rather than the end user.

Malice, in an email to GPD’s Brown, urged caution. “You probably heard that Avondale’s City Council had their work session this week and the Council advised the City Manager and PD to move forward without going to true verified response,” the email read. “We expect to be working with them on their ordinance rewrite to include this recommendation while they are working on their RFP. We are looking forward to working with them and would appreciate the opportunity to do the same with you in Goodyear.”

Brown responded to this email by saying, "I believe we will be looking to mirror Avondale's actions ... Our ordinance efforts took a bit of a break for the budget process, but we're ready to get back into it."

SIAC’s Martin was hopeful of a mutually satisfying resolution in the metro Phoenix municipalities. “I feel the council [in Avondale] made the first good decision, but they’re not operating with all the information they need yet,” Martin said. “We’re going to work with the police department and our plan is to get them all the information they need and help them to hopefully incorporate the national practices that we know will help them to accomplish the three things that are critical: one, reduce false dispatch; two, increase revenues for the city; and three, improve public safety by continuing to respond to alarm signals.”