Fremont Delays Verified Response, Chief Speaks Out


The police chief in Fremont, Calif., has announced he will
delay the implementation of a verified response policy by
30 days, but told Security Sales & Integration that
there will be no further extensions or changing of his mind
on the matter. The new policy, which was to have gone into
effect on Feb. 18, has been delayed until March 20.

Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler says he granted the 30-
day extension after alarm companies expressed concerns that
30 days wasn’t enough preparation time for the new policy.
However, Steckler says that is as much time as alarm
companies and their customers are going to get.

“I’ve put the industry on notice that there will be no more
extensions. The only way there will be another extension is
if I’m fired and new chief extends it. I’m 61 years old.
I’m not worried about keeping my job. I could have retired
years ago,” says Steckler, who adds he has lost patience
waiting for the alarm industry to solve the false alarm
“They’ve had 30 years to figure out false alarms and the
only solutions are more fines or two-call verification,” he
says. “It’s a nice concept but it doesn’t work.”

Steckler announced on
Jan. 20
that Fremont police would no longer respond to
burglar alarms unless a resident, property owner or alarm
company employee is able to show evidence that a crime
occurred, such as glass breakage or seeing a suspicious

The move has drawn
from the alarm industry and some members of
the Fremont community who say they will be left
unprotected. Dennis Wolfe, a Fremont insurance salesman,
has gained publicity saying that all residents should “arm
themselves” when the policy is in effect. Wolfe is
threatening a recall effort against Fremont Mayor Bob
Wasserman, who preceded Steckler as Fremont’s police

However, Steckler, who has been the chief in Fremont since
1991, says security guards hired by alarm companies to
respond to alarms would be able to respond faster that his
officers. Even before the new policy, Steckler says his
overtaxed department has treated alarm calls as a “Priority
3″ call, taking at least 23 minutes to respond. He says a
department analysis found that of 7,000 burglar alarm
responses, 6,934 proved to be false. Of the 66 responses
where there was a problem, 23 were burglaries.

Steckler says budget cuts has left him little choice but to
make cuts in his department. He recently ended Fremont’s
DARE anti-drug education program for children and reduced
narcotics enforcement by 25 percent; closed down street
crimes and other crime prevention units; and laid off 24
police officers. That has left Fremont with one of the
smallest officer-to-resident ratios in the nation.

“My problem is I have 188 officers sworn for a community of
211,000. It’s become a matter of prioritizing,” Steckler
says. “It just ethically didn’t make sense to me that we
weren’t dealing with real crime problems.”

Saying he has “several friends” who work in the alarm
industry, Steckler says there is a role for alarms in law
enforcement. He says he had an alarm system installed in
his own home after his house was bombed in 1998. “There is
an absolute place for alarms. Buy an alarm system. They’re
great,” says Steckler, who adds that customers should go
with panic and duress alarms that bring a more immediate
response and aren’t affected by the new ordinance.

Steckler believes the alarm industry fears a “domino
effect” if verified response succeeds in Fremont. Steckler
is a vice president at large for the International
Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and talks often with
other chiefs around the country.

“When are they going to step up and accept responsibility?
I don’t cause false alarms,” he says. “If they don’t want
to deal with it, you’re going to see more chiefs doing what
I’m doing and putting our hands up.”

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