Non-Response Policy Proposed for Dallas

Will Dallas go to a non-response policy for burglar alarms?

Stan Martin of SIAC and Chris Russell of the North Texas Alarm Association both hope not, and they're working to make sure that Dallas doesn't move down the path to non-response, or as some call it, verified response.

The brou-ha-ha started on July 21 when a news report from Dallas CBS affiliate Channel 11 reported that Dallas Chief of Police David Kunkle was going to propose a major alarm policy change to the city council. According to Kunkle, the city was dealing with a high number of false alarms – out of some 62,000 reported burglar alarms, some 60,000 or so were false, requiring some 47,000 man hours of time – and his response would have been to have the city's police force stop responding to all security alarms except for panic and hold-up alarms unless the alarms were visually verified.

Fortunately, with the news break on CBS 11 and the subsequent response from the NTAA and SIAC, the challenge may have been averted. Martin and Russell have been working the phones to get in touch with Dallas City Council members to alert them to what a non-response policy would mean and how it would affect the citizenship.

But what seemed to hit home the most to the council members according to Martin and Russell was that the recently passed state law governing alarm ordinances would keep the city out of significant money if the town went to a non-response.

"The recent change in state law prohibits the collecting of a fine for a false alarm if they don't respond," explains Russell, who serves as president of the NTAA. "That means missing some $4 million worth of income, money that's collected from the alarm permit fees and alarm fines."

Russell estimates that with the new law, which allows changes in how alarm ordinances can collect fines and fees, the income from alarm permitting and false alarm fines could even top $5 million for the city.

With the news story from CBS 11 and response from SIAC and NTAA (and involvement from the National Electronic Security Alliance (NESA) and the TBFAA), however, Kunkle's proposal to the city council has been backed off. According to Martin, the recommendation has been rerouted to the city's Public Safety Committee, a group which is comprised of some council members, but which doesn't have the ordinance enacting power that the full council does.

To Martin, this represents a "de-escalation" of the situation.

"He [Kunkle] tells us that he's going to ask that the council refer it back to him," explains Martin. "He's got a lot of other things to deal with, and I think this is not something that he wanted to get into with the citizenship, and of course, we think it's a good decision to do that."

Even if the recommendation does made it to council, says Martin, the new state law may not make it so easy to become part of the city's code. The new law requires a public comment period, explains Martin, so alarm ordinance changes can get voiced in the community before they can be approved or disapproved.

As it stands now, the first time the Dallas Public Safety Committee can examine the chief's proposal will be August 15, since the group meets the first and third Monday of each month. That means that if the committee does recommend the proposal go before the council, the council wouldn't be able to look at it until August 16 at the very earliest. That changes any "high-speed" approach to passing an ordinance change, but it doesn't mean that the possibility of a non-response policy is dead in the water, and Russell says they're acting like it's still very much a possibility.

While the relationship with the city of Dallas has been positive in this instance, says Martin, the scenario isn't always this good in many municipalities.

"The industry is often demonized as rallying the customers and getting them upset," he explains, "but it's not us who is affected by these changes. We'll adjust to the laws if they require a guard verify the alarm or permits or fines, but the real losers are the citizens who often don't realize what's going to happen until it's too late."

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