Dallas Repeals Verified Response Policy

City council overturns police recommendations, goes back to alarm response

Voting to repeal the verified response policy were: Mr. Leppert, Mr. Caraway and council members Jerry Allen, Mr. Atkins, Carolyn Davis, Sheffie Kadane, Linda Koop, Ron Natinsky, Dave Neumann, Mitchell Rasansky and Steve Salazar. In 2005, Ms. Koop and Mr. Salazar voted to implement verified response.

Voting against repealing the policy: Dr. Garcia and council members Pauline Medrano, Ms. Hill and Ms. Hunt.

The council's decision is effective Oct. 1.

About two-dozen people spoke before the council prior to members themselves publicly debating verified response's merits.

Several speakers regaled council members with tales of numerous property break-ins and finding themselves personally responding to their own burglar alarms in the middle of the night.

"It was the greatest thing in this city you could have done for the criminals," said Fred Conwright, who co-owns Two Podners Restaurant in South Dallas.

Mountain Creek resident Dallas Tillman, however, questioned the wisdom of repealing a policy he says stands to benefit fraction of businesses at the expense of the greater public.

"If the chief of police and the Dallas Police Association supports this program, why would the council vote to repeal it? Our police department is paid to protect all citizens, not just a few," Mr. Tillman said.

With verified response's repeal, Mr. Leppert, who took office in June, scored his first major political victory on a contentious item before the council.

As recently as last week, Dr. Garcia said she believed she had enough votes to reaffirm verified response, which Mr. Leppert himself placed on the council's agenda for a vote. But Mr. Leppert effectively lobbied his colleagues as council members who earlier this month remained undecided ultimately supported the verified response repeal.

The repeal is also redemption for a local alarm industry that's relentlessly lobbied council members since verified response became law in Dallas on their watch.

Chris Russell, president of the North Texas Alarm Association, said his organization now wants to form a committee composed of community residents and city officials to explore ways to reduce false alarms. Meanwhile, Mr. Russell, who is primed to become president of the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, would not say whether the industry will lobby the State Legislature to increase maximum penalties cities may charge for false alarms -- something many city officials on both sides of the verified response debate have advocated.

Therefore, several council members say they don't expect debate over verified response to stop with Wednesday's vote, particularly since some council members also warn that business owners shouldn't expect police to respond more quickly to their alarms than before Dallas' verified response experiment.

"It's not a victory for anybody," Mr. Salazar said. "The time it takes officers to respond will not be cut."

Copyright (c) 2007, The Dallas Morning News Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.