Video alarms help police prioritize response

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

With the sour economy forcing municipalities across the country to slash their budgets, Jentoft said that cities are keeping an open mind about prioritized response and video alarms.

"You can't just have a service for the rich. The fact that video alarms have become cost-effective in competing with regular alarms makes a big difference," he said.

For alarm dealers, Jentoft says that video alarms give the industry something of higher value to sell.

"What you think you're buying (when you buy an alarm) is the police," he said. "The argument is you can get a free system and have police when they get there or maybe pay a little bit more and have police put you at the top of list and respond like a 911 call. And, because it's a crime in progress, they make more arrests and there's nothing like an arrest to have deterrence."

Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), says that the alarm industry can't ignore the advance of video technology and that companies need to start thinking about how it's going to impact business moving forward. He cautioned, however, that video surveillance is not a cure all for false alarms.

"We've spent years reducing alarm dispatches around the country to the point now where (false alarms) are off the radar screen for most police departments," he said. Alarm dispatches have come way, way down 70 or 80 percent from where they were 10 years ago. It's time to get back to doing something even greater for police departments and that's not just getting them there after the fact, but getting them there while the crime is in progress and video technology, if structured properly, can achieve that."

Martin says the industry still needs to develop guidelines and standards regarding video alarms to ensure that the technology is applied appropriately. He explained that the industry doesn't want to produce volumes of video clips for police that turn out to be nothing.

"In other words, there is a person in a store or home, how do we know it's not the owner or an employee that forgot to turn the system off or enter the proper code?" Martin asked. "We've got to have some type of verification procedure to understand what we're seeing a picture of. The second point I would make is the importance of having these surveillance cameras or clips positioned in a way that we're getting the protected premises."

Martin said he has heard of cases where cameras were positioned where they were looking out over the perimeter of a facility that catch people, who while they may seem suspicious, are not actually engaged in any criminal activity. Of course, another application for video alarms is the protection of equipment that is located on the perimeter of homes and business, such as air conditioners, solar panels or radio equipment, which also will need some guidelines.

"We have to be smart about where we're applying this technology and how operators are going to respond when these video clips come in," Martin said. "Many of the police departments seem to be willing to respond quicker with just the additional intelligence that there is confirmation of some person on the protected site... even if we can't confirm it's criminal.

"And that's got some really strong points, many departments will say 'hey, we're willing to come a little bit quicker and investigate that because we believe there is a greater probability.' But yet I know there are going to be departments that want that filter that we've got to confirm criminal activity because they don't want to respond to just find an employee or homeowner that forgot to turn off their system. We have to kind of flesh that out with police departments and understand that some departments are going to have different standards for dispatch. "

Martin says another area of concern for the alarm industry is the potential for sales people in the industry to mislead consumers about the benefits of video alarms and police response.