L.A. Police Commission to Consider Task Force Report


The City Council recommended police soften its plan to not respond to burglar alarms without verification and instead allow three false alarms before resorting to the stricter rule.

The 11-member council unanimously voted April 22 to adopt the report by the city’s burglar alarm task force on alternative false alarm reduction measures and forward it to the police commission. The commission will decide whether to implement it or keep its own policy that officers respond to burglar alarms only if a break-in is verified by a surveillance camera or witness.

The new policy had not been implemented to give the council time to consider alternatives. The ban was originally slated to begin April 15, but commission officials delayed the launch date until July 1.

Police Commission President Rick Caruso said the panel would consider the city council’s proposal.

Under the alternate plan, task force members say, false alarm calls would be reduced, but not immediately. Instead, they would taper off as the ban kicked in against homeowners and businesses with multiple false alarms. Repeat false alarms would lead to escalating fines under the new plan.

Statistics from the Los Angeles Police Department show 43 percent of false alarms last year came from homes or businesses where alarms had gone off more than three times in a year. Police Chief William Bratton has said 15 percent of officers’ patrol time, 100,000 responses, involved answering false alarms. The task force said 23 percent of the city’s alarm systems result in 56 percent of all false alarm calls.

Chief Legislative Analyst Ron Deaton said the LAPD’s computer system would have to be changed—a process estimated to take two months—to make the alternate plan work.

Task force members and the alarm industry were pleased with the council’s support. Jerry Lenander, executive director of the Greater Los Angeles Security Alarm Association (GLASAA) said he believes the city council’s decision was reasonable and appropriate since during the entire process the task force was able to obtain information from the city related to false alarms and alarm permits.

“The disappointment was that it had to go through this process,” he said. “But it reinforces the need to pursue legal avenues to set the record straight.”

Howard Sunkin, a lobbyist hired by the alarm industry to fight the ban, said he expects all the alarm companies would agree to release the lists of their clients so permits can be issued and they can be identified when there is a false alarm. During initial negotiations, industry representatives had balked at the suggestion, citing security and trade secret issues.

If the police commission plan takes effect, Los Angeles would join other large police departments in cities such as Baltimore, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City that do not respond to alarms that aren’t verified by a private security guard, a surveillance camera or a resident.

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