Verification Does Much More Than Cut False Security Alarms

How audio and video verification can prepare police responders.

Almost three months after a rookie police officer in Jersey City, N.J., lost his life, I am still troubled knowing that he might have been spared with a better security system in place. The drama began around 4 a.m. on Sunday, July 13, when a troubled man entered a Walgreens and asked a security guard where he could find greeting cards for someone having a baby. In a few short minutes, a horrific scene unfolded and ended with the Jersey City cop, just seven months on the job, shot to death by a gunman who had told a drugstore customer to watch the news because he was “going to be famous.”

Reading and watching the news reports caused me to flash back to the early 1990s, when I was invited by the Palm Beach County [Fla.] Sheriff’s Department to demonstrate audio verification and video verification as a packaged enhanced method of verification to reduce false alarms and dispatches. Although the sergeant was impressed by what we were presenting to him, the demonstration actually taught us more than we expected.

RELATED: Video Plays Verifiable Role in Alarm Response

Enabling Better Prepared Police Responders

After our demonstration came acknowledgment of how enhanced methods of verification such as this would be a great contributor to reducing false dispatches. They went on to state how they believed that the information that could be gathered by listening in or watching remote video would greatly assist the responding officers in protecting both themselves and the public, and attaining more apprehensions. The sergeant’s logic, for the most part, was fundamental. Law enforcement knows better than anyone that a large percentage of alarm dispatches is usually false alarms that don’t require a response (at the time of my presentation I think the percentage was around 98%). For this reason, most responding police are not exactly pumped up with their senses piqued and adrenaline pumping. That’s not to say that they are not focused; it’s simply that they are not necessarily ready for combat, he suggested. It was further explained that if officers were told that they were definitely responding to a crime and they were given some details that were actual, based upon listening in or – better still – visually observing through remote video, the timeliness of the response and the positioning and strategy of the responding officer would be much different.

RELATED: Officer Down: False Dispatch Leads to Shot Fired

Responding law enforcement officials who know they are about to embark on a dangerous and life-threatening situation are just better prepared. Especially if they have the benefit of a continuous feed of information from the central station as the operator is viewing or just listening in to the crime details as it unfolds. This not only allows the responding official to mentally prepare, pique their senses and get laser-focused, it also provides them with valuable information that will help them plan their approach to the dangerous situation they are about to encounter.

RELATED: Audio Verification Equals More Apprehensions

Take Advantage of Available Technology

The Palm Beach sergeant handed me a plaque he was going to mount on the wall after the meeting. It was a plaque memorializing a deputy who was shot and killed when he responded to a holdup alarm from a local 7-11. The officer went on to say with great confidence that he believed this policeman would still be alive if that 7-11 had an audio/video verification in place and if the details of the holdup in progress were properly communicated to the responding deputy while en route to the crime scene.

I will never forget that experience and hope that I don’t have to read or watch another news report regarding another loss of life in a situation where systems, technologies and services are readily available that can help mitigate such tragic losses.

Audio and video verification is much more than a tool in the fight against false alarms. It can really be a lifesaver when applied and carried out properly. It’s the job of security dealers to communicate this message properly to clients and prospects, and that monitoring really does matter.

About the Author

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Peter Giacalone is President of Giacalone Associates, an independent security consulting firm.

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