Video alarms help police prioritize response

Police implementing prioritized response polices to reduce false alarms, increase capture rate

"I envision, down the road, being able to get the information across the bandwidth and be able to show officers in their cars what (the scene) looks like," he said.

Another jurisdiction in the process of establishing their own priority response policy is the Boise Police Department in Idaho. According to Curt Crum, supervisor of the BPD's crime prevention unit, the policy represents another step in the city's efforts to reduce false alarm dispatches.

"We've kind of taken our false alarm reduction in increments for years," he explained. "We started by implementing a city ordinance that basically allowed people to have two false alarms per calendar year and then you start attaching fees for dispatches to those properties after the two free ones. That actually cut our false alarms by 40 percent, but then we started to see them tick back up again and so about 10 years ago we cut it to one free (false alarm) per calendar year and doubled the fines, which has allowed us to stay pretty steady... but there are still way too many. I think we have about 3,800 false alarms that we send officers to every year."

When the county's unified dispatch call center has the web portal necessary to handle the new policy, Crum said he expects it will allow police to know much quicker if the alarm is real and to more efficiently utilize their resources.

"It will definitely enhance our response and provide enhanced safety to the officers that are responding to that alarm if they know that someone is indeed in that building and what they look like," said Crum.

Crum pointed out, however, that the department has not switched to a verified response policy and that they are still going to send officers to traditional alarm calls. Though they will still respond to sensor alarms, if they don't have any additional information about the alarm, Crum said that it could hold for 15 minutes before it's dispatched. If they receive information from the alarm company that an intruder is in the protected facility, Crum said the call will be dispatched as a crime in progress.

"If that alarm company calls us and just them verbally telling us that 'we have video authentication that this is an in-progress crime that someone is in the building,' just them telling us that is going to make it a higher priority," Crum explained. "But, the fact that they could send us a short video clip that would allow the officers to actually see the person, what they're wearing and a basic description, that would help immensely. "

Keith Jentoft, president of RSI Video Technologies, maker of the Videofied system that integrates PIR detectors with surveillance cameras, says that prioritized response is not about false alarm reduction, but rather to build on top of the work that has already been done in this area. While some may argue that these policies are "anti-alarm," Jentoft said that they are simply a way for law enforcement to make their response to alarms more effective.

"What's different here is that instead of a stick of non-response that people have been using, law enforcement is using the same concept as an HOV lane to encourage consumer behavior," said Jentoft. "Just as HOV lanes are not anti-car, priority response isn't anti-alarm. It's just a carrot side. They continue the response that they've always done to traditional alarms, they just go faster to video alarms.

Jentoft also pointed out that video alarms are not the same as 24/7 video surveillance.

"What we're talking about in priority response is moving video alarms up in the queue. That's the core issue. Video alarms are not surveillance, they're an incremental step in doing what alarm companies have always done, detect and notify," he said. "But, we're going a step beyond detect and notify in that we see what we detect and we can notify differently. Most importantly for our industry, it's not some new nanny cam that's self-monitored by the consumer that's going to flood the (911 call center). It's real security monitoring by real security companies."

Even many police departments that don't have a formal prioritized response policy will still respond faster to video alarms, according to Jentoft, because they "like making arrests."