Alarm Bylaw Puts Onus On Homeowners

Police hope new regulations on alarms installed by homeowners will cut down on the number of false alarms officers respond to.

New changes to the city’s security alarm bylaw require alarm-monitoring companies to make contact with a listed person at a home or business when alarms ring before they call police.

“I’m going to stick my neck out and predict false alarms will drop by 50 per cent,” said Glen Richmond, manager of the Vancouver Police Department’s false alarm reduction program. “Last year they were down by 15 per cent and we thought that was a banner year.”

Richmond said the new regulation, which came into effect this month, is designed to cut down on false alarms and stop wasting police time. Before the bylaw change, alarm-monitoring companies only had “to attempt” to reach a contact person.

“Prior to calling police the alarm company must actually make contact with someone on the key-holder list,” said Richmond, who left the New Westminster police department after 11 years to take the position with the Vancouver force two-and-a-half years ago. “This puts more onus on the homeowner to make sure their key-holder list is updated if they want police to respond.”

Richmond said Vancouver police were contacted 13,901 times last year regarding false alarms. About 70 per cent were false due to user error, such as people unfamiliar with the technology, or leaving a window open. Another 20 per cent were attributed to equipment malfunction, such as a dead battery or corroded contact switch, or damage done by wind or rodents.

According to Richmond, forcing alarm companies to contact homeowners or key-holders will eliminate nuisance problems.

Security alarms in Vancouver require a permit. The first time police respond to a false alarm residents pay a $75 reinstatement fee, small-business owners pay $125, and large business owners shell out $250. The second time police respond the fees double. On the third time the permit is cancelled.

Mike Jagger, manager of Provident Security, said while the new regulations won’t affect his company because his staff respond in person to calls before calling police, the change could slow down other alarm companies and give thieves more time to finish their work.

“By the time the alarm company checks with the owner, neighbours, friends and family, the person can be in and out. It’s a huge waste of time.” he said. “This [regulation] will make response times even slower.”

Richmond disagrees.

“With the technology available to us today, it doesn’t take long to get a hold of anybody,” he said.

“There was a study done in Chicago recently that showed that just by making a second phone call they were able to cut down false alarms by 25 to 56 per cent. That’s significant.”

More information is available on the city’s website at

Published November 11, 2004 · The Vancouver Courier · Written by Sandra Thomas

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