Monday, January 10, 2011

Bottom drops out

On several past occasions, I have blogged about false alarms.  These have been falling in Lincoln, despite the fact that the number of alarmed premises has doubtlessly increased.  In 2009, Lincoln’s new ordinance increasing the fee for chronic false alarm responses was adopted, and this law went into effect mid-year in 2010.  LPD did not propose this change, and deserves neither the credit nor the blame for the outcome. 

Now that we have some significant data under our belt, however, I think the introducer, Councilman John Spatz, and his fellow council members who unanimously adopted the ordinance may take a bow.  The council hoped this ordinance would reduce the problem of chronic repeat false alarms.  It appears to have done just that.  The bottom has dropped out of false alarms. 

Back in our peak year of 2002, there were 242 addresses in Lincoln where the police responded to more than five false alarms.  In 2009, it was 71 addresses.  That’s a reduction of just over 70% during that past eight years.  While the number had been falling since 2002, the biggest decreases are in the most recent years, –21% in 2009, and another –25% in 2010: the years the ordinance was debated and adopted, and the year of its effective date. 


Reducing false alarms not only conserves police resources, it improves public safety by reducing the overall number of emergency responses, keeping officers available for other activities, and helps police officers avoid the possibility of complacency when responding to a location that is the site of perpetual false alarms. 

The total number of false alarms last year fell to 2,796.  That was a 12% decrease from 2009, and represents a 42% decline from the peak year of 2002, when LPD officers responded to 4,848 false alarms. Just to give you some sense of how we compare, Garland, TX is one of the cities that we exchange data with as part of the Benchmark Cities Chiefs group.  They are a little smaller than Lincoln, with a population of 240,876.  In the most recent year for which we have exchanged data (2009), Garland responded to 12,716 false alarms--more than four times our number. 


Anonymous said...

As a friend of mine, in your line of work, told me: Police really like responding to an intrusion alarm call. Bagging a burglar is a great thing. However, what they don't like is responding to yet another false alarm at the same location, caused by something like a big promo banner being hung in a motion detector-covered area that waves and trips when the ventilation kicks on.

There are only so many cops on duty, and your chronic false alarms sometimes delay legitimate calls by putting them in a hold queue, while units are instead dispatched to what is assumed to be a burglary in progress. That delayed response to a verbal domestic might allow it to escalate into a beating or a stabbing while the units that have that verbal (for the moment) domestic in their held queue first respond to your floppy banner motion detector trip false alarm.

Power outages/restoration, lightning strikes, etc can be legitimate reasons for a false alarm, but sloppy operation or forgetting your pin code are not. That's why this ordinance makes sense, because some lazy people need a kick in the butt.

Steve said...


For us non-security experts, could you explain the typical flow of how the alarm process works? Does some person call, is it an automated thing, does someone from the home or business respond in addition to police? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

More time to plant more cops downtown standing around.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious to see the breakdown of residential vs. business false alarms. And what the numbers would be for 'repeat' offenders-- you don't have to give their names. A neighbor has his alarm go off at his house like a dang alarm clock.

Anonymous said...

If "cops standing around downtown" means getting to bar fights quicker and stopping curious teens from going in the remnants of the burnt out porn shop, then I'm all for it.

Dave said...

It's nice to see this trend, but aren't there still an inordinate amount of unregistered alarm systems out there Chief?

Tom Casady said...


Unknown. The only way we have for determining that there is an unregistered alarm is for that premise to have an alarm drop. I suspect that we will uncover a steady trickle of those, but we should be pretty well over the hump by now. I've talked to many business owners who have never obtained an alarm permit previous to this ordinance change, even though it has been required for many years.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:16
Bar fights, a real serious problem. Although I will agree these are a couple things they may be able to deal with.
And since you brought it up, don't you think it's about time they quit milking that building project and got it done, so Ost. can be reopened. Any other contractor could have had that building down and out of there in less than two days.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 8:10AM

I hate when we have more cops standing around downtown deterring crime, and making people accountable for their stupidity.

When they're down there, where am I supposed to be a moron? Where am I going to pee on things? How am I going to grope somebody or start a fight?

Anonymous said...

1:43 has it right; it annoys me when the police are around at bar break, because it deters me from coming out of the bar, sucker-punching the guy who just looked at me wrong, and running away. Drunk as I am when I feel the urge to assault someone like that, the cops would catch me for sure, and that's just interfering with my bloody fun.

Anonymous said...

My security provider had the police as the first call for our home. I had them change that to call my cell first. I suspect a number of places have done the same. Our false alarms were coming from the fan blades still rotating. So once we realized this we got that under control. There have been times when the alarm was tripped in another room. All we could figure out was a spider or insect.