Police in Kent., Wash., Will No Longer Respond to Nonverified Business Alarms

The new verified alarm-response policy will become effective June 1.

KENT, Wash. – Effective June 1, law enforcement officers here will no longer respond to non-verified, nuisance or chronic security alarms at businesses in order to free up officers to deal with crimes across the city, located about 20 miles south of Seattle.

Officers will continue to respond to residential alarms, according to the Kent Reporter.

The Kent Police Department says it spends more than five hours per day responding to business alarms, often triggered by employees at opening or closing time, Chief Ken Thomas told the newspaper. Thomas says about 99% of the nearly 3,000 alarm calls the department receives each year turn out to be false.

“It’s a waste of resources,” Thomas said. “We spend about $80,000 a year in response to false alarms.”

Police will establish a verified alarm response protocol to other alarms that must meet a certain criteria. Officers will continue responding to high-risk alarms like gun stores or pharmacies.

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“We are trying to get alarm companies and businesses to work more effectively,” Thomas said. “Some have listening devices so they can hear glass breaking or people inside, which would be a verified response. Or they have a camera system where the owner can watch on his phone [and view a break-in], we will respond. Or if there is a witness who sees something.”

Kent Police studied various ways to become more efficient because the force remains nine officers short of being fully staffed, according to the Kent Reporter. Thomas said he would like to have 153 officers, but attrition, retirements and the lag time to hire new officers have kept the force understaffed.

“We want to be transparent and open about the changes and hope the community will understand we are trying to use best business practices to be as efficient as we can with our resources,” Thomas said. “We think our officers will be able to do a better job of serving the community if they focus on things we can have a real impact on rather than false alarms.”

A few jurisdictions in the area charge companies for responses to false alarms, but Thomas said it would take extra staff that he doesn’t have to oversee a system that would fine businesses for the calls.

“I believe city of Kent tries to be business friendly and we don’t want to charge businesses,” he said. “We want them to fix their system rather than face threats of fines.”

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