Case Study: False alarms fought the law (and the law won)

Every now and then I have an interview where I'm like, "Gee, I wish I could put this entire thing in the magazine."  But in the real world, there simply isn't enough space to put full, unedited interviews in the magazine (unless we were to do...


McConnell: How would you describe the relationship between the Olympia Police Department and the local burglar alarm companies (both installation companies and central stations)?  Has the relationship changed at all over the years?

Machlan: The industry has been a full partner with us in this, and they deserve immense credit for helping it succeed. There were a few companies who were pretty skeptical at the beginning. Worried, I believe, that they would lose customers in the much tougher environment we had created. A few months into the program, though, and the skepticism was pretty much gone, and now I don’t think we have any company that is uncomfortable with the system. We continue to find ways to refine the program, and our good working relationship carries over into being able to make adjustments very easily. The local industry has really stepped up and taken responsibility for managing their customers. My understanding is that the industry now actually has better leverage with difficult customers because of the program. Much of the time, alarm businesses are able to get chronic false alarm violators to convert voluntarily to private security options – due in part, at least, to the fact that it’s a cheaper option than paying us for the service. We’ve always known intuitively that a relatively few chronic violators generate the vast majority of false alarms. Our experience is confirming that bit of knowledge and giving our alarm business partners the ammunition they need to work effectively with the chronic offenders without jeopardizing the credibility of their system or their relationship with the PD.

McConnell: Do you think that burglar alarms add security to a home? 

Machlan: Absolutely alarms add to the security of a home or business. That said, people need to understand that the value of a security system is only as good as its credibility with the police, and chronic false alarming is the equivalent of crying "wolf" too many times. It is critical that people who choose to own and operate alarms understand that there is a very high level of responsibility and accountability that goes along with alarm ownership. Our program is predicated on the fact that alarm owners, properly aware of their responsibilities and clearly accountable for the consequences of poor stewardship, will do the right thing and reduce the waste of public resources caused by false alarms. So far, our theory seems to be correct.

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-Greg