How Do DIY, MIY Security Systems Affect Police Response to Alarm Activation?

Detective H.W. “Robbie” Robinson of the Phoenix Police Code Enforcement Unit, Alarm Inspections explains how police prioritize dispatches to potential crimes.

Self-monitored DIY home security systems are disrupting the long-standing tradition of professional alarm monitoring. How much the new monitor-it-yourself (MIY) paradigm will affect the current model is a big question for the industry. But a bigger question for the entire population is: How will MIY security systems affect police response to alarm events?

Security Sales & Integration sister publication CE Pro posed this question to one very outspoken police detective and code enforcer, Detective H.W. “Robbie” Robinson of the Phoenix Police Code Enforcement Unit, Alarm Inspections. His lengthy response is below, but first we address some of the players and processes in the security alarm ecosystem.

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Alarm Response Glossary

  • Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) — Local-jurisdiction call center that processes emergency calls (911), including electronic dispatches from professional alarm monitoring stations and telephone calls from consumers themselves. Trained operators prioritize the calls, dispatching emergency responders (police, fire, ambulance) as appropriate.
  • Responsible Party (RP), Call List — Home owners and their proxies who might be contacted by the central station during an alarm event. For professionally monitored systems, the security dealer files the RPs (also known as the call list) with the monitoring station. In a self-monitored environment, users themselves might create their own call lists of RPs that might receive alerts from the security system.
  • Enhanced Call Verification (ECV; also called Multiple Call Verification, or MCV) — Protocol in which a central monitoring station will make at least two phone calls before contacting law enforcement. For example, when an alarm occurs, the monitoring station might first call the household if applicable, followed by the home owner’s cellphone and/or other “responsible parties” selected by the home owner. ECV can significantly reduce false alarms (30% – 50%) to 911 dispatch centers, and is required by law is some jurisdictions.
  • Verified Response — Law-enforcement practice of prioritizing alarms that are verified by an eye witness, surveillance video or audio from the premises. Many alarm panels have built-in microphones for listen-in capabilities.
  • Partnership for Priority Verified Alarm Response (PPVAR) — Group of public and private stakeholders comprised of law enforcement, the insurance industry and electronic-security industry that have established best practices for alarm verification, namely, prioritizing calls that include video and/or audio verification.
  • Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) — Person or organization with the authority to determine and enforce code requirements established by local governing bodies. In the case of alarm response, the AHJ might be something like what Phoenix calls the Police Code Enforcement Unit.


Do Police Treat DIY-MIY Calls the Same as Pro Alarm Calls?

Written by Detective H.W. “Robbie” Robinson of the Phoenix Police Code Enforcement Unit, Alarm Inspections, Edited by SSI.

This question can lead down a couple of rabbit holes, one being the DIY-MIY customer and their decision process on what they will do with the alert, and the other being, What will law enforcement do when the MIY calls to request police dispatch?

Since the question of what the MIY customer will do with the alert is completely unpredictable, I will focus on: What happens if the DIY-MIY customer decides to call 911 or the police department to request police dispatch?

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I have been asked about law enforcement’s reaction to DIY-MIY by several people in the security industry. Some are looking for law enforcement to impose a restriction on the DIY or the MIY or both to protect their business interests.

Some are asking law enforcement about the DIY-MIY issue from the perspective of growing their business and jumping into the fray before they miss the opportunity. They are looking to see if law enforcement is likely to do something down the road that would interfere with the profitability of their business model or product.

Law enforcement will have to deal with the fact that DIY-MIY is here to stay and it is still up in the air about how many DIY-MIY systems will be installed. The projected growth I have seen from the trade publications and security industry resources seems to indicate that the residential penetration rate is expected to grow around 8% due to DIY and other factors.

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About the Author


Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration.

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