Verified policy hits Dallas

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

DALLAS-- With a population of 1.2 million, Dallas is the largest city to enact a verified alarm ordinance and the first to institute a commercial-only policy in the country. Alarm companies with commercial customers in the city must arrange verified response, such as private guard services or a customer representative from the alarm company, to go to the location first to check to see if the alarm is actual before police respond. The ordinance takes effect in February.
However, Stan Martin, president of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, who tracked the city's progress and voting on the ordinance, said, "Dallas is not a verified response city." Martin said that, at the Dec. 14, 2005 meeting where the ordinance was passed, Dallas Police Chief David Kunkle announced that alarm companies could dispatch the alarm activation as a broadcast-and-file response.
Martin said burglar alarm information would be transmitted to patrol units, "they [police] have the option to go ahead and respond," he said. But, "With the broadcast-and-file designation, businesses are not guaranteed service."
Martin said that this policy has a gray area: "When you start picking out who you respond to, it really becomes a Constitutional issue."
Discussion of an ordinance for the city started in August 2005, when the city council drafted a verified response proposal that also included residential alarms because two-thirds of alarm contracts in the city are residential. However, after staunch debate between the city, residents, business owners and alarm companies in October, the proposal was adjusted and police were directed to continue to respond to residential alarms when the ordinance was finally passed in December.
Chris Russell, president of the North Texas Alarm Association and owner of Amazon Alarm Services, said the policy's outcome is an issue for alarm companies.
"I think the city came up with their own dangerous compromise," Russell said.
Russell said many alarm companies have notified customers about the ordinance change. Russell's Amazon Alarm, like other alarm companies, has to decide whether to hire a guard service or ask customers to pay for hiring their own guard services.
Russell has heard that some companies will start their own guarding arm to meet the demand for business clients.
Lt. Rick Watson, a public information officer for the Dallas Police department, defended the policy, saying it would allow officers to concentrate on patrol efforts.
"The alarm industry in the area will have to adjust, as we have done in other cities that have implemented similar policies," noted Martin.
Watson noted that the change is part of doing business. "They [alarm companies] are going to do everything they can to make sure that the alarm system that they sell is installed correctly, explain to the customers what will cause it to go off with in-depth instruction," to decrease the high percentage of false alarms.
Martin said the police have been cooperative with phasing in this policy through a 12-month transition time. "In the end, the greatest impact will be the commercial customers who were used to have police officer and back-up responding to these alarms," Martin said.