Alarm response policies demand sound research

A look at the real research that public safety policies should be sourcing


In general, security systems are installed on high value targets, both residential and commercial. They add a layer of protection to the property that reduces the need for police services, reduce criminal attacks and support the advancement of the quality of life in a community. The task force in Los Angeles found that the use of alarm systems was equal throughout the city regardless of socio-economic factors. One elderly woman from a high-crime area testified before the police commission that she was able to remain in her home only after she had an alarm system installed.

Private alarm companies play an important role in enhancing public safety, delivering the products, technology and expertise to the property owner. These companies must operate profitably, but it is disingenuous and unsupported by the facts to characterize them as profiteers.

The challenge for public safety agencies is to efficiently use the resources they have available to advance their mission of protecting and serving the community. This can only be done if the public agency supports a cooperative and strong relationship with the private sector and the stakeholders, including alarm owners.

Over the past 10 years, LAPD was one of a handful of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies who proposed denigrating or eliminating police response to alarms. Fortunately for the citizens of Los Angeles, the task force produced empirical evidence that indicated this would have a negative impact on public safety and the policy was rejected.

The trend developing now is that municipalities -- drowning in debt from financial mismanagement and a slow economy -- are looking for sources of unencumbered revenue. Alarm owners are a likely target. The proposed increase in fees, fines and taxes disregard the positive contribution that alarms owners make to the community and these increases should not be supported. An analysis of the research and statistics actually supports a tax credit of approximately $300 to an alarm owner who has a security system professional installed, monitored and maintained. If the alarm owner does not act responsibly, generating increased police response, then the agency may apply fines or fees to regain some of that revenue.

Even though the LAPD premise for eliminating alarm response was disproven nearly a decade ago, there are those who still propose policies based on these false tenets. Continued study and research by academic institutions and through the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) must be encouraged by those responsible for the development of public safety policy. This will ensure that agencies will not promote policies that denigrate or eliminate reasonable alarm response that have no basis in fact.

About the authors: The Public Safety Technology Forum is an independent think tank encouraging sound research and study of the integration of electronic security systems for the benefit of public safety and security. George P. Gunning is a Senior Fellow and Jerry Lenander is founding director. Both authors are affiliated with the California Alarm Association. Gunning is a former president of the Electronic Security Association (previously known as the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association).