Sheriffs Say Communication Is Key to Partnering With Security Providers

The July issue of SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION features the 2011 Law Enforcement Security Industry Study — groundbreaking research of utmost importance to the electronic security industry. The project aims to define law enforcement’s perceptions and expectations of the security industry, and identify how both sides can best work together in partnership to minimize false dispatches, deter crime and make more apprehensions. Overall, the findings were extremely favorable toward security systems ranging from intrusion alarms to video surveillance.

While the published results supply most of the statistical data, responding police and sheriffs contributed hundreds of comments that also lend fascinating and helpful, albeit sometimes a bit harsh, insight. The comments dig deeper into their thought processes, experiences and realities regarding dealing with security systems and the industry that provides them.

Here is the second of several postings in which we air some of these opinions. This installment is from sheriffs in response to the question: What would you advise electronic security companies to do to strengthen their relationships with law enforcement? As you will see, sheriffs, who were included in this study for the first time, are not shy about voicing their viewpoints. Where appropriate, consider it constructive criticism. 

“It would be significantly beneficial if alarm companies would require proof that their clients have obtained an alarm permit prior to initial activation of the alarm systems they install. Short of requiring proof of permit, it would be very helpful if alarm companies provided more alarm permit requirement information and emphasized its importance. We consistently find many residents and business owners operating alarm systems claiming they were never explicitly made aware of the need to obtain a permit in accordance with the law.” 

“Provide funding and or equipment to help with our day-to-day needs of electronic surveillance on the criminal side that is compatible with the systems being sold to businesses and private owners.” 

“Security companies are making part of their sales information that LE will immediately and always respond knowing that is not always the case. We have many alarm calls when there is no “key holder” or point of contact. If the deputy arrives he has no one to call that can provide information.”

“Most sheriff’s agencies cannot afford the technology costs. Help us to find the funding.”

“Better communication with local PSAPs [public safety answering points]. Often dispatch receives alarms from the companies but doesn’t receive follow-up info about response.”

“If the subscriber cannot or refuses to give and maintain updated keyholder information — DO NOT accept them as a customer.”

“I think that the biggest thing they can do is to make themselves known to the local law enforcement agencies. It only takes a couple of minutes of their time to stop by the station, introduce themselves to the officers, tell them a little about how their product works, and stress to them that when you respond to an alarm and there is no one at that residence, that does not necessarily mean that the alarm is false. There could be reasons the alarm activated and alerted police for a response. And it is possible that the potential actor was there and because of the alarm fled the scene. Motion sensors also could have picked up movement in the household and alerted. Thus the alarm was not a false alarm, there was a legitimate reason for the activation and it should not be listed as a false alarm. But the homeowner ends up punished because the alarm did what it was intended to do. Just a little bit of shared knowledge can go a long with to adjust attitudes about answering what they always refer to as a “false alarm.” Besides that, it is always in the best interest of law enforcement to respond to any alarm that comes in from their community, and I truly do not believe that there should never be a fine for responding to a call, that is what we are there for.”

“1) Not all persons/families can afford an alarm. So good neighborhood watch programs, locks and lighting are still needed.
2) Alarm companies should not promote cities/counties to pass ordinances that mandate fines.
3) Two-call alarm verification is an important tool to help reduce false alarms. The alarm industry should be offering customers two-call verification options and if you choose two-call verification you could actually get a reduction in your monthly alarm fee. If you don’t opt of two-call you actually pay a higher fee to the alarm company.”

“We have a very good relationship with the alarm companies. In my county, I objected to an alarm policy being implemented when asked by a commissioner to develop one. While we do have false alarms, I believe that implementing a fee-based service could reduce the number of alarms being installed, especially in an area of retirees and/or those on fixed incomes. Alarms do assist in crime prevention and/or capture of suspects. In addition, the alarm companies do whatever they can to voluntarily reduce false alarms with their customers, and it has worked.”

“Make video surveillance readily available. Help local sheriffs implement this new technology into their operations. Maybe assist smaller agencies with grants to help implement these technologies.”

“Our problem in rural America is that some central stations neglect to tell us which town the alarm is in, they all seem to assume we are in one municipality when we cover a number of towns in our county. Be sure operators give a complete address along with the city.”

“Increase the quality of video cameras. The big problem we see is reviewing video that is too grainy or dark to make out anything useful.”

“Employ bright individuals who know how to communicate effectively. Have them verify information before they pass it to us. We recently had an alarm notification for a business located in a county five hours away. Apparently someone dropped the ball.”

Scott Goldfine

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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