Alarming Security Procedures Allow Walgreen’s Burglar to Walk

How important is it to train customers to effectively handle an intrusion alarm system? I’d say it’s very crucial, especially given a recent cringe-worthy article featured in the Wauwatosa Patch, titled, “Burglar Alarm Works, But Walgreen’s Doesn’t Get the Memo,” that had me squirming in my seat.

In this incident, a burglar broke into a Wauwatosa, Wis., Walgreen’s store around 2:45 a.m. on Nov. 17. However, police didn’t arrive at the scene until they were called at 7:32 a.m., after the assistant manager arrived at the store to find the lower glass panels of both outer and inner main entry doors smashed — all for three packs of cigarettes no less.

But here’s where the story really gets interesting. Police discovered that although the alarm system was still armed, it featured a message that read, “Alarm 33 zone 33.” You read that right, folks; the alarm had indeed been triggered. But why wasn’t anyone alerted to the intrusion?

According to the report, police were aware that the alarm company — that remained anonymous in the article — monitoring this particular Walgreens, views live video feed. When they questioned representatives from the firm about the incident, apparently “nothing was seen,” but when police reviewed video footage, they could see a figure in dark clothing climbing over the customer counter.

It would be easy to place all the blame on the alarm company for this mishap. However, last year the city held debates about an annual permitting fee for alarm systems that pointed out three things:

  • Customers sometimes decline to have private alarm companies notify police because of the number of false alarms generated
  • Customers often fail to update “keyholder” information to their alarm company and police when personnel change over
  • Keyholders, who are supposed to be responsible for responding at any hour, cannot always be relied on to do so. If the alarm company is not supposed to call police and no keyholder picks up, it is up to the alarm company to decide whether to send a local representative to check the building. Because alarms are often false, they often don’t.

If nothing else, this story really stresses the importance of communicating and training customers. I’m not saying that this particular alarm company didn’t do that initially because honestly, I have no clue if it did. But perhaps regularly scheduling follow-up meetings with clients could prevent another situation like this from happening. After all, the intruder in this case had a five-hour head start to get away from authorities, when police could have arrived at the scene within minutes.

It’s also ever so critical to train your personnel. Frankly, it’s embarrassing that the police could notice the suspect breaking into the Walgreens when the alarm monitoring company could not. Remember, complacency can cost your firm hard-earned moolah, but also customers and a good reputation.

So that begs the question, if your company was involved in a similar situation, how would your alarm firm handle it? What are you doing to train your employees and customers? Leave your responses in the comments section below.

Ashley Willis | Associate Editor

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