Non-response is an everpresent threat

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04/22/2010
dpdbadge1 Just got an email from Paramount Alarm's Chris Russell over at the North Texas Alarm Association. He passed on a mailing from Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. Looks like the police in Dallas are cracking down on alarm system registration there and have instituted a strict policy of non-response to any unregistered alarm beginning on Monday, April 26. Here's Chris' email, short and not-so-sweet:
Important Notice! Dallas Police Effective Monday, April 26, 2010 the Dallas Police Department will resume its No Permit No Dispatch policy. This means they will not respond to burglar alarm activations unless a valid permit number is provided by the alarm company. As always, they will still respond to all panic alarm activations regardless of permit or permit status.
If you have accounts in the Dallas area, now would be the time to be sure your customers are all registered with the police. We here at SSN have written a lot about ordinances, the threat of non-response, and what the whole thing can look like when municipalities and the industry work together. As I write this blog post, my editor Sam is moderating the previously blogged Video Enhanced Alarms webcast with statistics, case studies and advice from leaders in a sort of movement in the industry that promotes enhancing all alarms with video (the movement's pushing audio as well (fret not, Sonitrol)), but the webcast is focusing on video). That webcast will be available on-demand at SSN soon. I wrote about this movement back when it was just forming. An interesting thing to note here, if not a very comforting thought for the industry, is that law enforcement is in no way legally obligated to respond to security alarms. They do it as a courtesy and really could stop at any time. Just one more reason, I suppose that the industry needs to be active and informed, willing to compromise and concede on occasion. I emailed SIAC director Ron Walters to see what he had to say about non/verified response to alarms. "Actually police have no obligation to respond to anything, including 9-1-1 calls. Pretty amazing huh?" Ron said. "The first alarms were flocks of geese used by the Romans to let them know when someone approached (this is true)." Ron went on to cite the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice study done in cooperation with the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF) and the city of Newark, N.J. The study shows that security systems have a demonstrable effect on decreasing crime. "Alarms became a tool for police when society moved to the suburbs. Police as recently as today recommend alarms to help deter crime," Ron said. "If the alarm failed to deter the event then the alarm rings a siren and now calls the monitoring station. We believe that it is the threat of response by a well-trained law enforcement official with a gun and arrest powers that is the true value of alarms ... We fight the fight to maintain the value of having an alarm." Law enforcement agencies generally want to respond to security alarms in order to better protect lives and property. The security industry needs to try and help combat the false alarm problem and help to educate end-users. SIAC executive director Stan Martin agreed the threat of non response was there, but pointed out there were certain protections for the end user in place.
We do have an equal protection amendment to our U.S. Constitution that in theory keeps police from picking/choosing who or what they will respond to--in other words they should always make response decision based on the good of the community as whole... think about what would happen if they could choose to only respond to the wealthy people or intentionally choose not to go into minority neighborhoods? In fact this is an argument we use with police--private industry does not have that same obligation to respond to all areas & all people and in fact private guard services do pick and choose the areas that they can service profitably--that's a huge downside to private response--there is no guarantee a citizen can hire a guard to respond--there is no legal obligation.

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[...] of police response is a problem. Remember, however, that police are not required to respond. To anything, really. What’s needed is cooperation with police and municipalities, and above [...]