Monday, September 8, 2008

Alarm trends

One of the more frequent police dispatches is to a false alarm. In the past 15 years or so, the number of alarm systems has mushroomed, probably due to more competition in the field, less expensive technologies, and just perceived need. The up side to this trend is that it has likely contributed to falling burglary rates in Lincoln. Here's the burglary trend:

False alarms, however, are problematic in that the volume consumes substantial police resources. At least two officers are dispatched to each alarm, there is always the potential for hazard when emergency responses are undertaken, and the time-on-location can be significant if the key holder is difficult to locate or a considerable distance away. Reducing false alarms, then, is a good thing--as long as it doesn't reduce legitimate alarms or the deterrence of alarm systems in the process. Here's our false alarm trend in Lincoln:

The falling numbers, in my opinion, are likely the result of a new ordinance enacted by our neighbors to the northeast. In 2002, Omaha stiffened it's false alarm ordinance considerably, enacting much stiffer fees after one "free" false alarm. Number two and three cost $100, and after that it's $250 a pop. Lincoln, conversely, allows four false alarms with no penalty, followed by a $25 fine for each false alarm after that. Since the alarm business is to a large extent regional, as are many of the retailers, I think we have benefited from the Omaha metro areas ordinances in this case, without enacting our own.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you could generate a lot of revenue if Lincoln passed the same law as Omaha.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of alarm systems that are properly installed, maintained, and operated. I'm not a fan of alarm systems if any of those three previous conditons are improperly performed. False alarms are a burden on law enforcement and an impediment to public safety. The LEOs that are responding to your false alarm might instead be catching a violent felon in the act or rendering expedient medical aid and saving a life of an accident victim with a quick response to another, legitimate 911 call. I doubt that you'll find many LEOs that mind responding to a real burglary alarm call, but I'd imagine that false alarms are just the opposite, especially when it's due to operator error of the following type:

"Well, I forgot that they changed our codes, and when the alarm started going off and the alarm company called and asked for the code word, I forgot that too! We have it written down somewhere near the phone, but I don't remember where. Yes, I'm a complete moron, but that's probably a permanent condition."

In any case, I really like alarms, but I also like the idea of raising the fine for false alarms, because an increasingly painful fine (with one freebie) will tend to encourage better system maintenance and operator practices.

Anonymous said...

I was working at a gas station. It was about 3 AM in the morning. The three of the Norfolk bank robbery convicts came into my store. I will never forget two of them. The faces are etched in my mind. Two weeks after the visit to my store, I saw the faces on TV. Showing the suspects one at a time, like displays at a fair exhibit.
On my first day on the job. The manager told me about the alarm. He said if you are held up, push the button, the police would come in 15-20 minutes. As I continued to watch the faces being flashed on the TV screen, I was sure that taking a gun to work every day was a smart thing to do. I also had thoughts about accidentaly shooting an innocent person in the heat of an incident. I now know that leaving that job was a good choice. The risk of a cival action is great and the chance of losing everything in on hold up was not worth the gamble or the low wage.
Todays question. If LPD has an Officer involved shooting and a interested person files a suit, does LPD help with the defense? Or is it a case where the employer walks away, washing hands in content.

Tom Casady said...


The City defends an officer who civilly sued in connection with his or her official duties. Normally, the City is also named as a defendant, as well. Having been sued repeatedly, both individually and in my official capacity, both as an officer, and as an appointed director, I have always felt well-represented. On a couple of occasions that I recall, the City retained private counsel for me in order to avoid a potential (though remote) of a conflict of interest.

RINGO said...

I too would be in favor of having penalties associated with false alarms. Not only is the officer responding to the call putting himself at risk trying to get to the call in the least amount of time, but those citizens sharing the road are also put at increased risk, by the officer responding.

Another factor is at what point does a responding officer become complacent when responding to an alarm at the same location on a daily basis?

It only takes one time for that alarm response to become an armed confrontation with a burglar.

As for Anonymous (1:15) statement that the police would respond to an alarm in 15-20 minutes, my guess is that whether you worked in a convenience store or not, living in a town where a law enforcment agency took 15-20 minutes to respond would not make me feel very safe. My guess is that response time in Lincoln is considerably faster. And I'm guessing that the Chief with a couple of keystrokes could find out what the average response time is to alarm calls. Chief?

Tom Casady said...

6:27 -

In 2007 it was 3.6 minutes. That's the police response time, though.

Every officer knows that alarms are delayed by the time it takes for the alarm monitoring station to recognize and respond to the alarm.

In the case of burglar alarms, they may contact the property owner before the police. It just depends on whatever protocol the alarm company and the property owner follow.

Anonymous said...

In the case of burglar alarms, they may contact the property owner before the police. It just depends on whatever protocol the alarm company and the property owner follow.

I thought this was the most gob-smacking thing about a certain burglary at SouthPointe. Considering a particular type of inventory that the store stocks (and no, I'm not opposed to any of it), it was inexcusable for the alarm company to do anything other than contact the police immediately when the alarm was triggered. If they had, you'd have been there long before the burglars left the store. If store policy or corporate policy was the reason for the long delay in notification, then that is where I'd point the finger (the biggest one pointing at the burglars themselves, of course).

Gene said...

Exactly, Anonymous, and it's why we had an additional 80 handguns on the street that were difficult to track down. Increasing the penalty of a false alarm apparently carries the risk of something like this happening again.

Anonymous said...

The response time should vary significantly I would think. Since there are SO FEW officers in Southeast, and their area of coverage is rather large.