BOSTON — Giving priority response to enhanced video alarms is gaining traction in Boston and New York and could soon be approved statewide in Iowa and elsewhere, according to advocates who want the concept adopted as a law enforcement classification.
Enhanced video alarm systems go beyond traditional “detect and notify” practices and thereby potentially provide visual confirmation of the cause of an alarm, says Keith Jentoft, president of RSI Video Technologies, who actively meets with law enforcement agencies across the United States promoting the concept.
“What we ask them for specifically is a code in the PSAP [Public Safety Answering Point] that is more than a standard alarm,” says Jentoft. “It’s not an ordinance like a false alarm reduction ordinance. Each PSAP can determine its own policy of prioritization.”
Boston Police Department has endorsed the practice and will assign a special code to the industry under “crime in progress.” The department has also agreed to initiate a special E-mail address at its PSAP that participating central stations can send video clips to after reporting the alarm event.
New York Police Department has agreed to the policy in principal and now Jentoft is working to get the department to formally pronounce its approval. “The goal is to have a piece of paper that formalizes it so the dealers can actually go out and show the consumer this is what the police will do,” he says.
Statewide adoption in Iowa is nearing completion, while efforts in Indiana and Alabama are progressing positively as well, says Jentoft, who partners with local installing security contractors in a unified approach to meet with police and sheriff departments.
“The police like it because it can make them more efficient. And the alarm companies like it because it gives them something of greater value to actually sell to the consumers,” Jentoft says.
Todd Gaito, a sales and marketing manager with Lynn, Mass.-based Wayne Alarms, joined in a presentation to Boston PD personnel. “The main goal is to get these police departments to buy into how this concept is going to make their lives easier,” Gaito says.
When meeting with an agency Jentoft outlines the case for adopting priority response using a PowerPoint presentation, during which he cites three different readily available technologies — standalone video alarm systems, hybrid systems combining alarm systems and CCTV cameras, and surveillance systems with pixel-based detection.
“Any time you can augment the alarm review with video that is a good thing,” says Lou Dekmar, chief of police in LaGrange, Ga., and a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Private Sector Liaison Committee. “The other part of it is, though, is it’s not a silver bullet because there are some things that may not be clear on a video that could result in a false perception of what is really occurring.”
Unlike video verification, Jentoft states emphatically the concept of an enhanced video alarm is not about false alarm reduction. “What we are looking for is to bring value because people will pay for value. False alarm reduction is a negative message, it’s not something that sells,” he says.
Stan Martin, executive director of Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), says Jentoft is promoting a positive concept but it must be approached with some caution. In particular he believes there is an inherent risk, given severe budget constraints in many communities, for law enforcement agencies to rely too heavily on enhanced video dispatch procedures and forsake responding to standard alarms altogether.
“That is a really scary scenario. You have 36 million systems out there and not all of these people can afford to upgrade to video, even though the cost is more affordable today than it has ever been,” Martin says.
Law enforcement agencies have been inquiring if SIAC has taken a position on the topic. Martin says it could be six months or longer before a decision is rendered while the organization studies the model and its foremost concerns.
“Police response to all alarms is essential if we are going to maintain the deterrent effect of alarm systems,” he says. “It is really important to keep property losses to a minimum and, for people’s peace of mind, to have police response.”