Verified response booted, L.A. officials compromise

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Friday, August 1, 2003

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Police Commission voted 4-1 last month to adopt a compromise plan for responding to alarms, ending a year and a half of debate in the city.

Under the compromise policy, police will respond to alarms without requiring physical verification, unless a site has experienced two false alarms within a 12-month period. For the first false alarm, homeowners or businesses with valid permits will pay a $95 fine. For each false alarm after that, they will pay escalating fines of $50 more per incident. Those without permits will pay $190 for the first false alarm, with fines escalating at $100 per incident.

Under the compromise policy, police will respond to alarms without requiring physical verification, unless the site has experienced two false alarms within a 12-month period. Escalating fines will be imposed on property owners after the first two false alarms. If the Los Angeles Police Department does not have physical verification, the department would dispatch the alarm activation as a broadcast and file response.

The new policy also requires alarm permits prior to installation of a system, and provides for penalties for alarm owners who do not keep permits current. For the time being, Hahn has requested an amnesty period to allow alarm owners and monitoring companies to acquire permits.

Hahn developed his proposal for a compromise policy with representatives of the City Council and other city departments, based in large part on the recommendations of the City of Los Angeles Burglar Alarm Task Force, which produced a comprehensive 50-page report in April.

Among the task force’s findings was that verified response policies adopted in other cities actually resulted in an increase in the number of burglaries. Salt Lake City, Utah, adopted a verified response policy in 1991 and abandoned that policy in 1994 after seeing an increase in burglaries and overall crime. Las Vegas also had a similar experience with its non-response policy.

Jerry Lenander of the Greater Los Angeles Security Alarm Association, praised the task force for its work on the issue.

“I think the task force did a really good job in dissecting the issue,” he said. “It’s really up to the citizens to determine what kind of policy they want and translate that to the police.”

What has been lost in this debate, Lenander said, is the reason people buy and install alarm systems in the first place.

“It’s really all about public safety,” he said. “False alarms are a negative side effect of a very positive partnership of public and private entities. Somehow, we’ve lost sight of our purpose and it became just about reducing false alarms.”

Hahn has asked the City Council and city attorney to work together to draft amendments to the city’s current alarm ordinance to support enforcement of permitting and fines. At press time, a timeline for action on the new alarm response policy was unavailable.