Getting a “free lunch”?

Some statements just burn, and our industry got a flaming sting in the new book Free Lunch by New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston. Johnston has apparently put the security industry on the list of those getting "free lunches" from the government, alleging that the alarm industry is having tax payers pick up the cost of their alarms. According to the author, police responses to false alarms are our industry's free lunch.

In defense, those false alarms are easy to quantify, but how do you quantify the number of homes that weren't burglarized because they had alarm systems, or the peace of mind many home owners and business owners feel when they're away because they know their property is being minded.

Sure, we've got a false alarm problem, and we are working on it with new technology standards and advocacy of central station verification procedures, but I think that's more often a problem of training system owners. And let's face it, technology end users aren't going to be perfect. Otherwise, we'd have no car wrecks -- hmmmm, maybe the car industry is getting a free lunch, too... People keep going out and buying new cars and replacement body parts because auto makers aren't keeping people from wrecking their cars -- and all the while, our police forces are having to respond to fender benders on our nation's roads...while you and I are paying the salaries of officers to investigate someone else's minor wreck! Shocking, I tell you!

Let's face it, there are plenty of situations where we all "pony up" the tax dollars to cover municipal costs that may never benefit us directly, but which overall do serve the general, public good. Alarm systems seem to fit into that category, and really it becomes a local issue of whether the taxpayers think that is a worthwhile endeavour.

You can read a review of David Cay Johnston's book Free Lunch at The Oregonian newspaper's website. If you sell alarms, don't expect that review and commentary to brighten your day.