The July issue of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION features the 2011 Law Enforcement Security Industry Study — groundbreaking research of utmost importance to the electronic security industry. The project aims to define law enforcement's perceptions and expectations of the security industry, and identify how both sides can best work together in partnership to minimize false dispatches, deter crime and make more apprehensions. Overall, the findings were extremely favorable toward security systems ranging from intrusion alarms to video surveillance.
While the published results supply most of the statistical data, responding police and sheriffs contributed hundreds of comments that also lend fascinating and helpful, albeit sometimes a bit harsh, insight. The comments dig deeper into their thought processes, experiences and realities regarding dealing with security systems and the industry that provides them.
Here is the first of several postings in which we will air some of these opinions. This installment is from police officers in response to the question: What would you advise electronic security companies to do to strengthen their relationships with law enforcement? As you will see, police are not shy about voicing their viewpoints. Where appropriate, consider it constructive criticism.
"Offer to teach or reteach persons with alarms how to work those installed in homes and business. We constantly hear from false alarm persons that they were never shown how to correctly work the system. Another thing is to make sure the alarm company calls the LE agency to cancel any alarm where they receive proper code. Again we are constantly told by residents that they spoke with their alarm company and canceled the call."
"A recent trend that has been developing with certain companies is multiple phone notifications. An alarm is called into police headquarters, officers are dispatched and even after arrival we receive multiple secondary phone calls. It sometimes gets to the point where we have alarm dispatchers on two or three lines at the same time. Meanwhile, we are telling them we have officers on scene and are checking the building. It sometimes requires calling contact persons to end the phone calls. I have personally had to take this action and this has not always been effective. These actions interfere with communication center operations especially during storm or power failure situations."
"If they used video surveillance and called when a burglary was taking place, this would help. In my jurisdiction, the alarm company’s clients are the ones who get fined for false alarms. This has created a time lag before the police are called for alarms since the clients don’t want to pay for false alarms. The alarm companies call the clients first to verify the alarm and for authorization to call the police. What we see on the street is a five- to 10-minute delay before the police are even called. By the time we arrive on the scene of a valid alarm, the suspects are long gone. This is frustrating for both the officers and the home or business owner."
"Begin offering video security systems of high digital quality and IR-equipped cameras for a reasonable cost to anyone looking at, or currently has an alarm system installed. On panic/hostage alarm calls, for the alarm company monitoring the system it would be great if the video feed could be transferred via Internet to dispatch or patrol MDCs so we can monitor the suspect directly. This would be a great advancement."
"The electronic security companies must be willing to work with law enforcement and have an open mind. The reality is if the alarm company is not operating their own response force then the taxpayers of the town pay for the response through the town, city, county, state law enforcement agency. Thus it is imperative that the alarm companies are excellent stewards of money and support operating in an efficient and effective manner."
"The biggest errors in regards to video surveillance are: 1. The cameras are often improperly positioned. They are placed too high. Upon review of the incident you see a shot of the suspect’s head and only partial face. If the cameras were installed at eye level we would have greater success in identifying the suspects. 2. Many video surveillance systems are of poor quality. The customer installs one and they think all is well. A crime occurs, we review the video and many times find it of such poor quality we cannot pinpoint key pieces of evidence."
"Reduce false alarms! Contact law enforcement with little delay. Example: I conducted a house check four to five years ago and found a door open. I checked the house, listened to the phone ring and, according to dispatch, eight minutes elapsed from the time I called in stating I had an open the door to the time a call was received from the alarm company. Such a delay to me would be unacceptable. I was able to wait for a second car, check the entire house, secure the house and contact a keyholder before the alarm company notified the police. The alarm company said the reason for the delay was their operators were extremely busy."
"Monitor the number of alarms from clients and be proactive to reduce the number. My sense is that locations that continuously have false alarms only get attention if law enforcement initiates some enforcement or no response action based on a policy or ordinance. Security companies could do this on their own. Not only would it improve relations with law enforcement and the fire service, it would reduce their workload and, consequently, staffing needs and costs. Companies could also contact law enforcement agencies in areas where they provide service to customers. In our area, calls are made to the county dispatch center. I am not aware that we receive any communication from security companies."
"Better attitudes from representatives who call the police department with alarm information along with good alarm information (activation area, who is on the premises, are they away on vacation), good keyholder info and direct phone number to location. If at a business, like a bank, and it is a robbery alarm, they need to provide as much info as possible upfront as quickly as possible. Is it a confirmed robbery? There is a difficult balance here since alarm companies need to get the call to our dispatch center as quickly as possible; so not sure of the fix. Maybe a three-way call with the reporting person (victim) and the police department — or a transfer by alarm company to police department?"
"How about a standard video format? Too many companies have their own encoders that require specific codecs and proprietary software. We can’t see anything most of the time. Costs for us to have the equipment and infrastructure are outrageous and prohibitive. I do not suggest the alarm companies provide the equipment; however, I also do not see a reason for paying several thousand dollars for a garbage video feed when my phone screen has better resolution for less than $200."