Promoting Providers as Public Safety Partners
The security industry has moved from indifference to taking responsibility for the false alarm issue, forging stronger bonds with key officials in communities nationwide. Better technology, best practices and consistent outreach is making a huge difference, with the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) at the forefront of education and advocacy.
For close to 20 years, the electronic security industry has been working closer with law enforcement to significantly reduce alarm dispatches and improve the trustworthiness of our profession. Waging battles for our alarm customers in a very few jurisdictions where the voice of reason seems to have been left at the doorstep, while ignoring the proven solutions in favor of stopping response to everyone, is becoming an obsolete approach.
The campaigns have come at our industry from many directions, sometimes in the form of policies through police departments and other times through ordinances approved by local elected officials. They have been sprung on us suddenly; we also have been engaged in many actions where we were given a heads-up beforehand. Sometimes the meetings with local officials are cordial and solutions cooperative; other times, meetings are acrimonious and compromise difficult.
Ten years ago, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) was created as a consolidated voice for the alarm industry to address these specific issues for the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), Security Industry Association (SIA) and Canadian Security Association (CANASA). Because the issues continue to this day, it’s important to frame the landscape to give companies in our industry a rounded perspective on where we’ve been and where we are headed.
The statistics continue to support we are doing a strong job avoiding verified response (nonresponse by law enforcement to alarms), as fewer than 20 communities in the United States have chosen this path out of more than 18,000 jurisdictions over a period of 12 years. We could argue from that simple statistic that SIAC’s strategy of proactive outreach of education on real long-term solutions has been accepted by mainstream law enforcement, but the issues are much more complex than that, and require continued vigilance, perhaps now more than ever.
Why We Are Winning the War
In just this past year, nonresponse initiatives and proposals to fine alarm companies have diminished greatly. Not by accident, SIAC believes its long-term strategy of partnership through outreach and education is working exactly as planned. It’s incorrectly perceived that most of SIAC’s resources are spent battling bad ordinances. Most of the organization’s effort is relationship-building and education through affiliation with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), State Association of Chiefs of Police (SACOP) and other law enforcement groups, along with organizations involved in security-related issues.
A significant change from the past several years has been the effort setting up alarm management committees at the state level through the state chief’s organizations. That effort, which requires strong cooperation between members of the alarm industry within a state and members of law enforcement, has grown tremendously. What was once just a couple of alarm management committees many years ago has grown to 12 with several more pending. The addition of (retired) Chief Steve Keefer as SIAC’s West Coast law enforcement liaison promises even greater opportunity to expand this extremely effective program.
This means individuals on both sides of the issue are working together to solve the problem of unnecessary alarms. That’s a critical point to remember: Rather than aggressively engaging each other, ideas and solutions are being shared to find what works best. This is a winning proposal for all parties — especially the public.
Getting the information into the hands of police chiefs is critical to finding common ground. When they understand the number of alternatives that will significantly reduce alarm dispatches, keep funds flowing into their local jurisdiction and still serve the citizens with response, it’s a win for each local community because public safety is enhanced. It’s a win for the police department because they can typically be more effective in their resource use and fund a sustainable response program. And it’s a win for the alarm industry because customers continue to receive the sworn officer response they expect as taxpayers.
Not surprisingly, more chiefs are speaking up in support of the industry. Given the past history on alarm-related issues, that’s a major step forward. Five years ago, SIAC had good relationships with a number of nationally known police chiefs. That number has expanded dramatically since then. Not only do they work with our industry, but they are also willing to speak up in support of SIAC and its solutions-based approach (see the Law Enforcement Video at siacinc.org).
While SIAC is not typically directly active on the state or federal legislative front, the organization does work on issues that have statewide impacts, like Enhanced Call Verification (ECV). For more than six years, SIAC’s Glen Mowrey has worked tirelessly to get ECV (a.k.a. two-call verification) mandated statewide. His efforts have borne fruit as most recently a law was signed into place for the state of Georgia, bringing to five the number of states that have a statewide mandate for ECV implementation.
Challenging Geographic Areas
Despite the overall improvements in terms of collaborative problem-solving with law enforcement, several regions of the country have a higher level of concern, including California, Colorado and Arizona, in that order. Budget-related issues continue to be a problem in these regions, and rather than working through a deliberative solution that takes time, it can be easy to believe the quick answer is nonresponse. It takes more time to discuss SIAC’s Model Ordinance plan and answer questions, so if not at the table early the alarm industry can be faced with an uphill battle getting its voice heard.
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