Milwaukee Going to Verified Response


Police in Milwaukee say as of Sept. 19, they won’t respond to burglar alarms unless they are verified by an alarm company representative at the site of the call. The verified response policy was announced by the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) on July 16 and applies to all home and commercial burglar alarms in the Milwaukee area with the exception of panic alarms.

The new policy came abruptly for John Evans, president of Milwaukee’s Able Security Systems, who told Security Sales & Integration that while there were rumors that a policy might be coming, the announcement July 16 was the first time he heard officially from police that such a policy was even being considered. Now, Evans and other alarm companies only have a month to prepare themselves and their customers for the new policy.

“We got a very short timeframe to deal with it. It would have been much better if there was some extended public discussion on this,” Evans says. “The city and police department are trying to deal with an understandably serious problem, but it’s going to have a detrimental impact to our customers and there are ways to attack the problem that aren’t so harmful.”

Milwaukee, with a population of 596,974, becomes the largest United States city by population to have a total verified response policy. Las Vegas (population 478,000) and Salt Lake City (181,143) also have verified response policies. Winnipeg (650,000), in the Canadian province of Manitoba, began verified response April 30 and is the largest North American city with such a policy.

Los Angeles, with 3,694,870 residents, has had a limited verified response policy since Jan. 1 where police don’t respond to unverified alarms at addressees with more than two false alarms in a year. Los Angeles City Council leaders are still debating a new alarm ordinance that would make limited verified response permanent and substantially increase false alarm fees.

Milwaukee police say that of the 28,346 burglar alarms they responded to in 2003, 96 percent were false alarms. Sgt. Ken Harris, a MPD spokesman, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the policy change will rid the department of a responsibility that should have been the alarm companies’ all along.

Evans says he has already heard negative comments from his customers. “Our customers are very upset and they’re concerned about their safety and property, and whether their alarms will have any good effect anymore,” says Evans, who added a false alarm fine structure might have been more beneficial. “I don’t know many of my customers who mind paying for a false alarm.”

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