Texas legislation keeps verified response proposal balanced

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Saturday, October 1, 2005

DALLAS--The city council planned to pass a verified response ordinance to curb police expenses without notifying residents until a local news station leaked the information in early September. Now the proposed verified response ordinance requiring alarm companies to send private security guards to non-panic or hold up alarms will be discussed with residents at an October city council meeting, thanks to state legislation that took effect in September.
Senate Bill 568 poses a challenge for the city's proposal. It outlines managing security alarms and provisions for municipalities before it adopts a verified response ordinance. The legislation requires cities to notify permit holders about a verified response ordinance and to conduct a hearing to discuss the proposed change. If a municipality adopts verified response, it cannot impose or collect a fine.
Stan Martin, executive director of Security Industry Alarm Coalition, said if it weren't for the leak, Dallas' verified response proposal would have flown through the city council before the legislation took effect.
This is not the first time verified response has been on the agenda in Texas. Other cities, such as Arlington and Fort Worth, have been thinking about similar ordinances as a measure to reduce false dispatch. Nationally, Las Vegas became the first city to change its ordinance to form a non-response approach. Since that time, 24 cities have adopted a similar ordinance.
According to the Dallas Morning News, of the more than 62,000 alarm calls last year in Dallas, police said more than 97 percent were false. With the proposed verified response police said the move would free up approximately 45 police officers and save the city about $3.4 million.
"To me it makes no sense," said Chris Russell, president of the Northern Texas Alarm Association, about the figures that determined the proposal of the policy.
In Dallas, there are 1,218 patrol officers and 62,000, alarm calls. That equals less than one per week per person, Russell added.
"There are 2,000 burglaries in the city. If you divide that by 365 days, then on average six burglaries take place daily."
These figures are typical in a large city and shouldn't determine if verified response is an option, he said.
The association has talked with the police chief and city council about the proposed revisions to its decade-old alarm ordinance. Results of the public hearing were announced after Security Systems News published.
Russell said the concern is that customers want police responding to their alarms.
"We don't want to cause any unnecessary panic with our customers; our customers want police response," he said. "We do intend on notifying our customers and are trying to work with the city to have a cooperative effort."