Santa Fe seeks false alarm task force volunteers

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

SANTA FE, N.M.--The city of Santa Fe has announced it is looking for community members to serve on a task force to research, study and recommend workable alternatives to the city’s alarm system ordinance. The aim of the group is to cut back on the number of false alarms to which Santa Fe police are required to respond, thereby saving time, money and resources.

According to Security Industry Alarm Coalition president Ron Walters, the city commissioners realized that there was a problem that needed to be addressed in a fair and open way, and SIAC was asked to make recommendations. “In Santa Fe they have a law enforcement steering group that makes recommendations. Nothing can go before the council until it goes before the public safety committee,” Walters said. “So when it was time to go in front of the public safety committee, we were provided an opportunity to go in there and speak. And it wasn’t elected officials that were listening, they were citizens. And regardless of their stand on whether or not verified response was right for their community, citizens are more likely to say, ‘You know what, let’s do a study of this, let’s not just listen to what the police department has to say.’”

According to Santa Fe Police Department records technician Dorothy Encinias, the city has begun to receive applications from alarm companies doing business in Santa Fe, and welcomes more, but also needs applicants from the general public to provide the voice of the private citizen. “The reason for the task force is because the way our ordinance is written right now, we charge the customer, the alarm holder, for all false alarms, for all registration fees,” Encinias said. “What we had originally proposed was to put some of these fees on the alarm companies, on the monitoring companies. And, of course, they all got upset, and they showed up at city council and said ‘Why us? Let’s come up with a different way.’”

SIAC executive director Stan Martin said he had faith in the power of the democratic process embodied in the task force. “They were considering a really harsh direction - non-response - and [we] went in there and explained to them that there were many alternatives, but that the critical item from our perspective, the most important thing, is citizen involvement,” Martin said. “I can say unequivocally that the task force has never failed.”

New Mexico Burglar and Fire Alarm Association executive director Vic Berniklau agreed: “We believe this is a very effective method of attacking the problem of false alarms if the composition of the task force includes representatives of all of the interested parties and there is an open receptivity of the results by the decision makers.”