Security Watch

New York licensing proposal draws criticism; concerns over fire protection districts getting into the monitoring business


Proposed New York Licensing Draws Criticism, Concern
By Deborah L. O'Mara

A draft state licensing bill proposed by a committee of the New York Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NYBFAA) and the Long Island Alarm Association has drawn criticism and concern from the central station industry.

The legislation seeks separate licensing of central station monitoring companies. Currently, only alarm companies selling, installing and servicing alarms are licensed (Article 6D,1992). Article 6E "Business of Alarm Monitoring," raised concern from wholesale monitoring companies and brick and mortar central stations, who question its necessity, the impact it will have on revenues and whether it can be effectively enforced in the state, which is currently in budget crisis and financial disarray.

Backers cite more professional monitoring services

According to John Lombardi, president of Commercial Instruments & Alarm Systems Inc., Fishkill, N.Y., a member of the committee proposing the legislation and a second vice president of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), the legislation's focus is on consumer protection through background checks and fingerprinting, as well as Homeland Security (circumventing offshore monitoring companies from entering the industry).

"Despite what others in the industry have said, this was not just written by 'alarm guys,'" said Lombardi. "Our committee was responding to a proposed bill drafted in 2009 by former New York State Senator Brian X. Foley from Long Island." (Foley no longer holds office but his committee continues development of the model ordinance.) Lombardi said opponents voiced it would ultimately be too expensive and in general is unnecessary.

"It's not too expensive," Lombardi said. "What if every jurisdiction in New York required fingerprinting? That's when it would get expensive. Here, one law would cover it and it would be one flat fee for the year for example, about $200. There's value to legislation if it's good and we believe it is."

Lombardi said the NYBFAA committee wants to protect the industry. "The goal is to raise the bar for the security industry profession and do it at a price point that's economically safe and in which everybody will benefit."

Ed Bonifas, president of CSAA and vice president of Alarm Detection Systems, Aurora, Ill., said CSAA "continues to monitor the issue closely and is acutely aware of the conflicting positions regarding it." Coincidently, CSAA had its Long Range Planning session scheduled for the end of January and will examine this. "Our position, if there is consensus, will be developed at that time," he said. Bonifas added the committee will also discuss national reciprocity [a federal bill] citing that, "the issue seems to have legs at this time."

What opponents are saying

Russell R. MacDonnell, chairman and chief executive officer of Rapid Response Monitoring Services, Fairfield, Conn., said he and other wholesale and brick and mortar monitoring companies have examined the draft and don't see the need for it. "What troubles me is that legislators are not pushing for this and consumers are not crying out either," he said. MacDonnell attended the Regional Alarm Systems Integrator Association (RASIA) meeting in Elmsford, N.Y., where Lombardi presented the committee's draft. RASIA is a sub-chapter of NYBFAA.

MacDonnell said that from Rapid Responses' perspective, the company already goes above and beyond what the bill proposes. "Our central station operators are fingerprinted and DOD cleared," he stated. "I do not think that on balance this legislation will do anything material that is not already being done in the industry to protect consumers or businesses. We are not prepared to let the state of New York finalize the details of what it takes to be qualified, what test will be administered, what the final fee structure will be and how it will all be enforced."

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