Recognizing who the real enemy is helps police and dealers forge past negative perceptions into pres

“The nice police officer is your friend.” How many times did you hear that as a child? Today, with fines, ordinances and threats of no response, you may be questioning how much of a friend police officers are to you and the community of alarm owners you service.

Jason Sokol, central station manager of Monitor Controls, Inc. in Wallingford, Conn., believes that police view alarm dealers as the bad guys because of the false alarm problem.

Glenn Smith, president of Ohio Electronic Protection, Inc, in Columbus, Ohio agrees. He says that often, the police and security companies are on opposite sides of the spectrum. “The perception held by the police is that they are doing the work and the alarm companies are making the money,” he says.

Some alarm dealers and police are working together to eliminate those negative perceptions and accentuate the positives of police and dealers working together to fight crime.

Dealers in several states are communicating with police via fax, phone or in person regarding false alarms. When necessary, dealers get involved in pressure situations to assist police. State associations are working closely with local police department’s to ensure involvement with security legislation.

Just keeping in contact with the local police aids the development of mutual respect and understanding that you are targeting the same goal – to protect and to serve.

Provide Police With False Alarm Facts

The relationship between police and alarm dealers has historically been one of conflict and problems. False alarms have always been at the bottom of the conflicts.

Apart from the Model States Program, individual alarm dealers and state associations are opening up the lines of communication with the police to combat those negative perceptions.

Smith says, “When we explain to police what the problems are with security systems, what we are trying to do to eliminate false alarms, and break down what we get for monitoring the systems on a per hour basis, they [police] look at the situation in a different way. Taking the time to discuss these concerns with the police has proven very beneficial.”

When dealers start talking to police, they often realize that the police actually want to hear from them. “The police departments are looking for input from us,” adds Sokol. “That’s why we sit with them and tell them what the products we use can do, what the central station can do, what the installers can do, and what laws are out there that can be enforced.”

Know the Chiefs in All Cities You Handle

When they have a job that’s out of town, Ohio Electronic Protection representatives always make a habit of stopping by the police or fire department to introduce themselves.

“Walk in and introduce yourself to the chief, especially in the smaller towns,” says Smith. “He is usually willing to give you a few minutes. We tell him if he ever has a problem with a customer or system to call and we’ll do what we can. That always seems to be appreciated. Then, if there are any problems with our systems, he has a business card and knows who to call,” he says. He also advises other dealers not to just stop by once, but to maintain the relationship.

Model States Program Helps Reduce False Alarms by 25 Percent in Some Cities

Apart from individual efforts by dealers and associations, the industry has been hard at work on the Model States Program. The program, a cooperative effort between the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation (AIREF) and the International Chiefs of Police (IACP), was developed to reduce the burden of false alarms on the law enforcement community. With four model states – California, Florida, Illinois, and Washington – encompassing 60 small-, medium- and large-sized cities, the project has produced encouraging results.

According to Stan Martin, vice president industry relations for ADI and the program’s national coordinator, participating cities have seen a 20 percent to 25 percent reductions in false alarms within three months to six months without anyone forcing anyone to do anything.

“Just the fact that we are organizing these efforts, and there is strong dialogue between the alarm industry and police creates awareness,” says Martin, who oversees the program on a full-time basis.

Already, 65 percent of the departments are using the software that was put together by the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) to track false alarms. That has allowed the program to identify the worst offenders in the community.

During joint meetings, cumulative reports are handed out to alarm companies.

At this point, the program, which is a little past the halfway point, is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 1999. “We honestly expect to see 50-percent to 60- percent reductions in the cities that have cooperative areas where everyone is doing what they are supposed to do,” says Martin.

Currently, AIREF is studying ways to use the four alarm coordinators, who are now working with the four states, in the future and are looking at various means of continuing the funding. Although it’s too late for cities to actually become part of the program and be officially counted in the data collection, a city can take steps to follow the guidelines. In fact the coordinators, especially in the four states, will assist them.

“In the real world, we’re going to reduce dispatches anywhere and everywhere we can. To that end, our coordinators support anybody that needs help on a time available basis,” says Martin.

In addition to reducing false alarms, the program has changed attitudes. “I can honestly say with a clear conscious that the police community has responded favorably to our efforts,” says Martin. “When they see four full-time coordinators as well as my efforts, they understand that the alarm industry is very serious. Not only are they seeing dealers get involved to reduce dispatches, but most importantly, they are seeing results.”

Martin urges all dealers to look at their worst offenders and not wait for an ordinance or model states program but to take four or five of their worst accounts every month and get them fixed. “I think we’re at an all time high as far as our relationship with the police. We don’t want to let it die.”

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