Russell: Guard companies and alarm companies both are actively communicating. The city of Dallas is the first and only city in about a 1,000-mile radius to stop responding to electronic burglar alarms systems. Most alarm companies and guard companies in Dallas lack the historical experience in assuming the liabilities and responsibility involved to provide a complete solution of safety and security on such a large scale. At this point it's all speculation with both industries and the city. There is no proof that a responsible system to continue the safety and security of businesses in Dallas can be accomplished in less than 6 weeks.
Simon: Even though some companies may contact us, Brink's Home Security analyzes all the firms in a market where the jurisdiction has gone to non-response. Private guard services must meet the stringent standards we set. While our customers can make their own choice on what firm to hire, we do explain to them through a letter that we have analyzed firms and list the one(s) we feel comfortable with.
How does the verification service fit into the business plan? Do you subcontract out?
Simon: When possible, Brink's will offer our customers verification services through a subcontractor agreement that we have set up with a private guard service that meets our standards. However, our customers will make the choice whether to use a private guard service.
Russell: In the past, a business alarm user had a choice of how they used police response; that choice has been extracted from all Dallas business alarm users. As a result it has created a new opportunity for alarm companies. Customer base and demographics, as well as liability concerns, will direct most alarm company's decisions to sub-contract, refer guard companies, or to become a guard company. Regardless of alarm company specifics, a proactive and aggressive business model can enhance any business by creating a distinctive service product (product differentiation).
In the end, can the new policy provide a real benefit for the alarm community and for the public (both in terms of being better for public safety, and being better for an alarm dealer's business?)
Simon: We believe the "best" option is for police to be initial responders to an alarm dispatch. They are the best trained to deal with any critical issues that could arise in a burglary situation.
Russell: I see multiple financial benefits to the alarm industry, but I see no benefit to the safety and security of the public by eliminating an option to have highly trained and educated sworn police officers responding to alarms. Financially, the Dallas taxpayer will have to compensate for the lost revenue generated by alarm users, while the alarm user will incur an expense of someone to respond to their alarm.
What kind of contact are you making to your existing customer base following the new verified response policy?
Russell: We are attempting to speak with all of our business customers directly. The process is being expedited by the confusion surrounding the unique and abrupt adoption of the ordinance to stop police response to alarm systems. We are expecting to have letters mailed before February 1.
What can be learned about the political process from this Dallas case that the alarm community can use in the future when it faces potentially similar policy proposals in other cities?
Simon: We must as an industry continue to meet early with city officials and decide cooperatively how we can consistently drive down false dispatches. Working together we can get this done and everyone benefits -- public safety, the police, alarm owners, the alarm industry.
Does the new policy have the potential to negatively affect bottom lines?
Russell: Any negative affect to the industry bottom line should be temporary. Crime increased in other US cities that have adopted a no-response ordinance. This increase in crime should boost interest in alarm systems and therefore increase alarm sales.
Simon: We've found that where verified response has gone into effect, there has been a very slight initial downturn in sales, and the occasional cancellation of service. Business tends to pick up after several months.