The Great Debate

Getting everyone to agree on how to reduce police dispatches for false burglar alarms can be a true challenge


When looking at the electronic burglar alarm industry as a whole, one of the hottest topics of debate is the issue of false alarms and how they can be reduced. With some jurisdictions having false alarm rates as high as 98 percent, it’s easy to see why police departments across the country are either demanding increased accountability or putting a lower priority on responding to burglar alarms. Complicating the matter further, how (or even if) the police respond to burglar alarms in your area can affect the public perception of the service being provided by alarm dealers.

But not all of the news is bad.  According to Stan Martin, executive director, Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), Frisco, Texas, the national dispatch rate has decreased by 70 percent over the past ten years, going from an average of three annual dispatches per burglar alarm down to 0.8. However, Martin also pointed out that the number of burglar alarms in the U.S. have gone from 18 million up to 38 million in that same 10-year time period, so the total number of dispatches hasn’t been reduced significantly.

The late Tip O’Neill, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, once stated that “All politics is local.”  A few decades later, that phrase is very applicable to the various burglar alarm ordinances and situations throughout the country. For instance, even if the national trend is a good one, it means little to you if your town has a big problem with false alarms stretching your police resources too thin or if your police have effectively stopped responding altogether.

For cities that are still debating their alarm ordinances, many factors have to be taken into consideration. How much should the fines be and who should pay them?  What type of burglar alarms should be permitted?  What criteria should be met before the police are dispatched?  And perhaps biggest of all, what does this all mean for alarm dealers and the value of their businesses?  As you can imagine, there are differing viewpoints on these questions and Security Dealer & Integrator explores the various viewpoints in this article.

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