The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

23 January 2005

Alarming developments

From the official press release:

Effective February 18, 2005, the Fremont [California] Police Department will institute a program of "Verified Response" to all alarm calls with the exception of panic, duress and robbery alarms. For this reason, if you have a panic, robbery or duress feature to your alarm system, these will continue to be treated as high priority calls for service by the Police Department, and will need to continue with the Alarm Permit Program and be subject to false alarm fines if your system sends a false duress, robbery or panic alarm. Verified Response will require the alarm or monitoring company to verify there is an unusual occurrence at the location of the alarm. This can be done with video or sound feed, with an eyewitness, or by the alarm/monitoring company hiring private security to check out the location. No police will be dispatched until there is a verified problem.

Fremont police chief Craig Steckler points out that last year the department received about 7000 alarm calls, 98 percent of which proved to be false.

Meanwhile, Costa Tsiokos asks:

[R]eally, are the security companies going to bother with this? It'll increase their operating costs in a big way, which they'll have to pass on to their customers. Insurance incentives will make it hard for people and businesses to drop their alarm systems altogether, but at some point, it'll make more sense to just put in a dummy alarm system that's designed to just make noise without the monitoring.

Should my alarm go off, which has happened three times in fourteen months, each time due to a screw-up on my part, the security company has checked in with me — average response time, 55 seconds — before taking further steps. Oklahoma City imposes a fine if you've had too many false alarms; as far as they're concerned, I haven't had any, because the accidental alarms have been properly intercepted. And what I think is the most likely means of tripping the alarm accidentally in my absence (no, I'm not going to reveal it here) has yet to happen, despite multiple instances of conditions favorable for it.

It's hard to blame Fremont for wanting to conserve its limited resources for actual burglaries and such. But is this the leading edge of a trend where, in CT's words, "overworked and understaffed police departments would answer calls only made via security firms"? I hope not.

Posted at 11:54 AM to Dyssynergy