On the heels on the announcement that the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) and the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & System Association (GELSSA) have filed a lawsuit against the City of Sandy Springs, Ga., over what it calls “unconstitutional” false alarm fees directed at security alarm dealers, the city fired back on Tuesday.
In a statement, the city publicized the names of 39 different security and alarm service providers whose eligibility to request emergency personnel response in connection with activated intrusion (burglar) alarms systems within the city was revoked – meaning thousands of customers can no longer get help in the event of an intrusion alarm.
While the move is designed to call out those companies who have refused to pay what SIAC Executive Director Stan Martin calls “unreasonable and draconian fines on alarm companies for false alarms that are not attributable to any act or omission of the alarm company,” it may have created some serious ancillary consequences.
“Canceling alarm response for all of an alarm company’s customers in the city, because the city alone has determined that a single customer of that alarm company caused a false alarm, puts all at risk,” says Jay Hauhn, CEO and Executive Director of The Monitoring Association. “Also, publishing this list gives information to burglars that may put Sandy Springs citizens’ property at higher risk.”
The list of 39 companies reads like a who’s who of residential and commercial business alarm dealers and includes nationally recognized brands such as ADT, Xfinity Home, Stanley Security and others. Access the full Sandy Springs press release at www.sandyspringsga.gov/Home/Components/News/News/1591/17.
“ADT supports efforts to meaningfully reduce the number of false alarms, but studies have shown that fining the alarm company by default does not have an impact on reducing false alarms,” says Don Young, Chief Information Officer for ADT. “The Sandy Springs ordinance will do little to modify customer behavior, and can have a detrimental impact not just on our industry, but most importantly, public safety as a whole. ADT, a member of the (GELSSA), supports the association’s efforts to challenge the ordinance in court and believes that it will likely be overturned, as have similar ordinances in other jurisdictions.
“ADT welcomes the opportunity to work with Sandy Springs to develop a better, more effective way to tackle the issue of excessive false alarms,” Young adds.
"Sandy Springs unjust decision to not dispatch police for the majority of its home and business alarms is negligent and unconstitutional," says David Fuller, President of SafeCom Security Solutions, which was also named. "False alarms can be reduced but passing the buck to alarm companies and holding responsible alarm users accountable for the irresponsibility of a few will not work. I have spoken with several customers and they have all made their displeasure known with emails to Sandy Springs city council. I'd encourage others to do the same."
While Sandy Springs is careful to point out that the revocation of response applies only to intrusion (burglar) alarms and not to panic, duress, holdup and fire alarms, Martin says the ordinance is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at raising funds.
“Unfortunately, the city instead enacted ill-conceived legislation that serves no apparent interest other than lining the city's coffers,” Martin says. “As a last resort, members of the alarm system industry were forced to file a lawsuit to vindicate their rights and protect the interests of the public they serve.”
The city claims that the purpose of this civil penalty scheme it to promote the public health, safety and welfare of the Sandy Springs community by reducing false alarms. “If the city was being honest with its constituents, however, it would acknowledge that the actual purpose is simply to generate additional revenues for the city – regardless of the safety implications for the Sandy Springs community,” Martin says.
Martin adds that under the civil penalty scheme, the city stands to collect far more in fines than the amount of any alleged cost it claims to have incurred in connection with responding to false alarms. “The economic reality is that these fines will make it cost-prohibitive for alarm companies to continue serving the Sandy Springs community,” he says. “Many smaller companies will be driven out of business, and the new ordinance is going to drive out competition and drive up costs for consumers.”
In the meantime, SIAC and GELSSA are looking for support in its legal fight. Perhaps by calling out some of the most deep-pocketed security operators in the country, it will help bring more resources to bear on the issue.
“We are prepared to fight that battle in court, but sometimes, the best way to stop politicians from meddling in the affairs of private citizens is to let them know that their actions will cost them votes,” Martin says. “Thus, while the alarm system industry seeks to vindicate its rights in court, we would encourage every citizen of the Sandy Springs community who is being negatively affected by this unconstitutional ordinance to get on the phone, write letters, attend City Council meetings, and let their elected officials know how they feel.”
Editor’s Notes: Although Convergint Technologies was named in the original Sandy Springs press release, VP of Security Tony Varco says his company has “confirmed with the Sandy Springs False Alarm Division that Convergint does not owe any money and is still active in their system. We were referred to and have reached out to Police Captain Dan Nable to understand why Convergint was named since we are still active and our registration has not been revoked.”
SD&I magazine has contacted representatives from Xfinity Home and several of the other named security firms for comment, but they did not return our inquiries by the time this article was published. Look for updates as we hear back from them.
Paul Rothman is Editor in Chief of Security Dealer & Integrator (SD&I) magazine. Access the current issue, archives and subscription information at www.secdealer.com or visit us at ISC West Booth #23141.