Ventura, Calif., Considers Verified Response Policy

STORY UPDATE: Ventura Goes to Non-Response following 6-0 City Council Decision

Ventura, Calif., is the latest in the list of towns considering an verified response policy to counter what it is seeing as an excessively high number of false alarms.

The city, which is to consider moving to a verified response policy in the same manner as the much publicized Fremont, Calif., case, currently has an alarm permitting fee in place and charges for false alarms after the second false alarm in a 12-month period.

The updated policy has been proposed by Ventura Police Chief Pat Miller, and is scheduled to go before the City Council tonight, Monday, Oct. 3, 2005, at 7 p.m. The public can attend this meeting.

On Sept. 27, Chief Miller filed an administrative report with the city (see PDF version of full text of report), recommending that the city attorney develop a revision to the alarms ordinance that would implement a verified response policy. Miller's proposal will be under discussion before the city council at 7 p.m., at the City Hall, on 501 Poli St., Ventura, Calif.

The proposed policy would "require alarm companies to notify the police once they verify a crime has been or is being committed," according to the chief's recommendations. "Without the verification," he proposes, "patrol officers in the vicinity will be alerted about the alarm. Officers may choose to respond to the alarm if there are factors that lead them to believe the alarm is valid."

In the report, Miller said that of total alarms in 2003 and 2004 (10,480 total), only 40 were not false, leaving the calls at a 99.6 percent false alarm rate. Those high false percentages were not a new thing to the city, and in 2003, the Ventura Police adjusted the false alarm program to diminish the number of false calls. On the first false alarm violation, they mailed notification cards to alarm owners. Second-time violators received contact from a patrol officer. Fourth and fifth offenses received a fine, and subsequent false alarm calls saw termination of police response.

However, according to the Police Department, those policy changes saw only a 10 percent decrease in the number of false alarms, an number that the chief calls "insignificant compared to the overall number of false alarms," in the administrative report.

Also in the report, the chief adds that other options the council could consider would include raising the fine-based structure, levying a "fee for service" for all false calls, or continuing to respond to some 5000 false alarms annually.