This is a follow up to my post Tuesday about the declining number of false alarms in Lincoln. A reader, Michelle, who is an alarm administrator for a Texas law enforcement agency, left a comment telling me that the industry standard for assessing false alarms in the ratio of false alarm dispatches to alarm systems. This makes sense. The denominator provides the context for comparison., just like population is used as the denominator to calculate crime rates.
There are 5,554 registered alarms in Lincoln, so last year's 2,383 false alarm calls would represent a ratio of .43. We do not know how many alarms were in operation in 2002, the year we reached our high of 4,848 false alarms. I think we can reasonably assume that there are significantly more today, because the population of Lincoln is more than 30,000 greater today, and it is also my impression that the number of alarmed premises has soared in recent years.
Lacking specific data on the number of registered alarm systems in 2002, if we just assume that the number of alarm systems was the same as in 2012 for the sake of this exercise, the ratio of false alarms to alarm systems would have been 4,848 to 5,554, or.87. If I am right about the likely increase in the number of alarmed locations in the past dozen years, that ratio would actually have been considerably higher than .87, thus the decrease in the ratio to .43 in 2012 would be even more dramatic.
From past comparisons, I already knew that false alarms in Lincoln are on the low side when population is used as the denominator. I was curious, though, if the same would hold true using Michelle's ratio of alarms to alarm systems. In her comment, she had mentioned the website of the False Alarm Reduction Association, faraonline.org, so I went there in search of any data of this type from other jurisdictions. It looks like the site has lots of resources, but most are for members only, and I wasn't quite ready to fork over $150 to get a peak right at the moment.
I did, however, find a document on FARA's site that sheds some light on how Lincoln's ratio of false alarm calls to alarms system stacks up. It was this description of the winners of the 2011 FARA Achievement Awards. The top award went the the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, which reduced the false alarm ratio from .42 to .35 over a three year period. One of the runner ups, the Riverside, CA Police, was recognized for a four year reduction from .69 to .41. With Lincoln's ratio standing at .43, it appears we compare quite favorably with the award winners.