Seattle police push for compliance on alarm calls

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

SEATTLE--The Seattle Police, in an Oct. 22 letter to alarm companies, announced that on January 1, 2009, it would begin enforcing alarm company requirements from the Seattle Municipal Code.
Detective Christopher Hall, false alarm administrator at the SPD, said that the letter, sent to over 300 alarm companies, was not about cracking down, but was simply a push for compliance. "In 2004, they rewrote the law that basically started billing the alarm companies instead of the consumer, and it included all these provisions, and now we're finally getting around to enforcing them," Hall said. "This past year has really been the first time we've done a real big push and started enforcing the no response aspect of our ordinance. And we've seen some good results from that."
First among the requirements is that monitoring companies doing business in Seattle be licensed with the city. A properly licensed monitoring company will be issued a unique identifying number, or UIN, which the monitoring company will need to provide when calling in an alarm. Failure to provide a UIN will result in non-response to the alarm.
"The alarm industry out here--the Washington Burglar and Fire Alarm Association--they're pretty much on board," Hall said. "They say, 'Listen, we all get our license like we're supposed to. That way everyone knows that we're operating legitimately, and we're doing everything we're supposed to do. So we think everyone should have to.' ... Basically, we've given them all of November and December to get this all taken care of. It is not a difficult process."
Secondly, the Seattle Municipal Code also requires that alarm companies utilize enhanced call verification every time they call in a burglary/motion/intrusion alarm. Therefore, effective January 1, 2009, the Seattle Police Department will institute a policy of not dispatching officers to alarm calls when the alarm company has not followed the ECV provision of the law. Alarm companies will be instructed to call back when they have made two call verification attempts and must be able to provide the numbers called.
Of enforcing the use of enhanced call verification, Hall said, "It's pretty much the industry standard right now. We just haven't been enforcing it."
In the event that a human activated alarm (robbery, panic, duress, for example) or an alarm at a sensitive location--the determination of what constitutes sensitive is up to the person taking the call--is called in and no UIN is given or ECV has not been utilized, Seattle Police will dispatch officers to the call. Hall said this is consistent with current exceptions to the existing No Response policy. When asked what might constitute a sensitive location, Hall said, "We have a few consulates here in Seattle. If it's some ambassador's house, we're probably going to go. If it's some piece of critical infrastructure, we're probably going to go."
Washington Burglar and Fire Alarm Association Western Chapter vice chairman Shannon Woodman, vice president of sales at Washington Alarm, said Washington Alarm is ready for the January 1, 2009, compliance date. "We've had our UIN for a while," she said. "It just never gets asked for." Woodman also noted that another positive requirement of the Seattle Municipal Code that will be enforced is communication by the alarm company of the zone in which the alarm occurs.
Hall stressed that alarm companies should not be surprised by any of the requirements of the Seattle Municipal Code. "There's some misconception. This is not an amendment to the law or anything like that. We haven't implemented something new. It's existing law. We're just finally enforcing it ... We're not trying to knock anyone out, put anyone out of business. It's, 'Look, you just have to comply.' We want to get everyone playing on an even playing field and everyone following the same rules."
More information can be found at the Seattle Police website: http://www.cityofseattle.net/police/programs/alarms/