Police Response and Fines

Failing Police Response and Increasing False Alarm Fines

In my last Intro to Alarm Monitoring episode we talked about the evolution of alarm monitoring from the 70s up to the current day.

Next I want to talk about the relationship between alarm companies and the police department.

In the early years of monitoring in the late 70s and early 80s, the police and the alarm companies were best of friends.  We did a lot of silent alarms, when we’d get a signal, we would call the police department, they would go in and they’d catch the bad guys.

That was great. Most of the alarms were commercial alarms.  There were a few residential alarms but mostly commercial and with the silent alarm we had a good chance of catching people.

When we got into the 80s with the proliferation of home security alarms as I talked about in my last episode, we started having more and more need for police dispatch.

We also started doing audible alarms.  In a residence we’d either use bells in the early days and later on electronic sirens.

You’d have an alarm system where you had the front door, the back door, some windows, maybe some floor mats underneath the carpeting.  When the alarm tripped it would ring a siren inside the house and outside the house.  The burglars would take off and we’d call the police department, the police department would come but the police weren’t getting anything.

The police would respond, but if the police got there in a minute, they might see something. But most likely if they weren’t there in a couple of minutes, there was nothing for them to do.

The alarm siren would frighten off the burglar. They might see the open door, would create some paperwork for them, that’s about it.

As time went on with more and more alarms being installed, the police started developing an attitude that it wasn’t really necessary for them to respond because they didn’t add anything the equation. The audible alarm would frighten off the burglar.

They weren’t catching any bad guys.  The bad guys were scared off.  They were just coming in and they would just end up not having anything to do but do a lot of paperwork.  As time went on, they became more and more reticent to respond. It was creating more and more draw upon their manpower because there were more and more false alarms.

In the city of Seattle in 2004, their police department complained that they went on 32,000 false alarms – what they identified as false alarms.

What cities identified as false alarms is when the police weren’t necessary. Now the alarm may have tripped because a door blew open and the alarm did what it was supposed to do. But, it didn’t need police response.

It may have been someone came home and couldn’t get their alarm turned off. Maybe they didn’t have the right code. It could have been the cleaning lady didn’t have the code to turn the alarm off.  It could be someone left a pet inside and it tripped the motion detector.  It could be someone left balloons inside that tripped the motion detector.

There were a lot of things that could happen that don’t really require police response so the police started charging false alarm fines.

In a lot of cases, the cities would charge fines and they would give some of the money to the police department to cover their response cost. However, then they would start subsidizing their budget with false alarm fine money.

A lot of companies then started using private guard response in response to tripped home alarm systems. Now, the problem with private guard response is that they don’t have enough people to do a timely response.
We kind of gotten to a point today where there really isn’t any timely response to alarms except people are paying a lot for response; kind of creates a problem.

It begs the question – can you get your money’s worth from alarm monitoring?

We’ll talk about the economics of alarms in our next segment, and then what you can do about it.

Intro to Alarm Monitoring Series: