Call the Police! The Alarm Industry’s Fate Depends on It

Why is it that we never seem to read the handwriting on the wall until our backs are up against it? In the case of false alarms and verified response, that writing is now in big, bold, red letters.

Throughout the past year, headlines such as “Police Warn Industry: Dealers Must Address False Alarms!”; “Verified Response Issue Takes the Heat in Seattle”; “Keeping Your Guards Up”; “Las Vegas Deals Us Out: Will Others Follow Suit?”; and “The Argument for, Against Verified Response” have appeared in Security Sales & Integration.

We have been right there in the trenches delivering the touchy, crucial message that alarm companies desperately needed to bridge the industry’s growing rift with law enforcement before the false alarm issue spiraled into an all-out crisis.

Unfortunately, with headlines such as “LAPD to Plug Its Ears on Many Alarms” from the Jan. 8 Los Angeles Times, it may already be too late for some. At press time, the L.A. City Council was considering whether or not to approve verified response (for more, see page 10).

The day preceding that article, I was in attendance at Los Angeles City Hall, listening to the L.A. Police Commission discuss verified response. The tension in the air there was so thick you could have cut it with a knife!

The commission gave 29 people exactly one minute to convey their concerns, which left most cut-off in midsentence and unable to finish their points. To make matters worse, many of the commissioners were doodling, talking among themselves, moving about and generally preoccupied.

In other words, they had apparently made their minds up well before the meeting, and nothing was going to change them. I was shocked, and came to the conclusion that something more serious was at work; that the false alarm issue was merely a manifestation of a much greater, core cause.

Bottom line: Our relationship with law enforcement is seriously damaged. The problem has deep roots that have grown out of many years of poor communication and dissension. Now, it is like an old festering wound that won’t heal.

What can we do? We must extend an olive branch to law enforcement and admit there is work to do. Police have legitimate gripes about false dispatches. We need to be sympathetic and help alleviate their concerns.

We must let every police chief know that our industry has the same goal in mind – protecting life and property. Therefore, it is imperative that we learn to compromise in order to work together, shoulder to shoulder, to curb crime.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome in Los Angeles, I believe there is still time to mend the fences in most areas of the country. If you own or operate an alarm company, here’s what I recommend.

Make an appointment with the police chief or one of the commissioners for a personal visit. Tell him or her you would like to take just an hour or so of time to get better acquainted and discuss the false alarm problem.

You don’t have to be an association member or industry activist to do this. Don’t wait for someone else to be proactive on your behalf because chances are nothing will ever happen.

During the meeting, ask questions and find out what their concerns are in your town. Be responsive and ask how you can help. No matter what, even if negative things are said about the alarm industry, do not get defensive!

Although I realize it may be asking a lot, you may even want to confer with your competitors and consider including them in the meeting. Let’s face it, this issue affects them as well. Heck, you may even make a new friend.

Be it burglar alarms, CCTV, access control or any of the many other types of security systems we install, it is up to us to convince police that we are as valuable to them as the guns on their hips. Only then can we place our collective energies where they belong – safeguarding the public.

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