Burglar Alarms: “An Unnecessary Burden?”

In this month’s Security Sales & Integration Magazine, there is a great interview with Chief William Bratton of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Bratton has been at the centre of a huge debate in Los Angeles about Police response to burglar alarms. The same debate has been, and is being had, in dozens of other cities. However, Los Angeles has been the most widely publicized and would be the largest North American city to move to a full verified response policy (they are part way there now). Bratton has been actively, and very strongly, pushing for a complete verified response policy meaning that the LAPD would only respond to an alarm signal that has been verified by either a security guard (or other person onsite) or by remote video.

In the interview, Bratton says “Policing, in general, is not fond of the burglar alarm industry. We consider it an unnecessary burden and it’s an industry that we don’t feel is particularly willing to work with us to make the alarms more reliable and less of a negative and resource impact on police.”

I completely agree. Typically, I find myself one of very, very few people within the security industry that will speak out against the entire concept of Police response to private alarms. For years, our industry has gotten away with selling a service, that in order to offer any real value (in terms of burglary), completely relies on the Police (over which the alarm company, obviously, has no control). I just cannot see the value in that. What’s worse, it actually serves to detract from the value that the Police are able to offer in that it wastes so many of their resources.

As I wrote in a post a few weeks ago, nearly 5% of all dispatches to the Vancouver Police in 2004 were for alarms… virtually all of which were false. The news has been full of reports recently about City Hall approving little more than half of the new Police Officers that Chief Jamie Graham has requested. All of the statistics show us that Police response to alarm signals is of virtually no value… so why not reclaim those 5% of calls and help the Police use the resources that they already have more efficiently?

In Los Angeles, Chief Bratton says that “if the house is not protected by private guard response, the reality is we’re not going to be coming with lights and sirens on to that location unless there is human verification.”

Why hasn’t Vancouver done this yet?

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