Video Plays Verifiable Role in Alarm Response

Learn how law enforcement agencies are defining verified alarm and their different response methodologies.

Vinson describes the fundamental difference between the “verify a crime” and “verify a false alarm” approach: “The Texas Police Chiefs Association understands that there are many procedures to reduce unnecessary police dispatches. The TPCA recognizes the value of many false alarm reduction techniques such as waiting for multiple sensors to trip before the central station calls the PSAP [public safety answering point].”

Best Practices Aim to Advance Priority Response

A best practices document released by the Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response (PPVAR) outlines how to use video verification to achieve priority response from law enforcement agencies.
In June, the Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response (PPVAR) released a document that defines video verification from the law enforcement perspective. The best practices describe how central stations can work with their 911 dispatch centers and use video verification to get priority response and more arrests.

A dozen large agencies, including the Texas Police Chiefs Association and the California Police Chiefs Association, worked with leaders in the alarm industry and large central stations to create this important milestone. These PPVAR best practices are available for download and review at ppvar.org.

Video verification is already creating value for the alarm industry by delivering priority response and greater life safety. The support of state police chiefs associations and the National Sheriffs’ Association, together with the efforts of the FBI National Academy, will only make this public/private partnership even more important as video verified alarms become the majority of new alarm system installs over the next couple of years.

Vinson believes it is confusing, however, to label such procedures as actual alarm verification. While these procedures may lead to a reduction in false alarms, he says, TPCA does not consider these to be verified alarms and are not the equivalent of a video verified alarm as defined in the PPVAR best practices.

“Video verified alarms are intended to do more than reduce false alarms. Video verification as described in the PPVAR best practices is intended to help identify a probable crime-in-progress and help responding officers make more arrests,” says Vinson.

From this perspective, alarm verification is much more than false alarm reduction. The goal of video verification is to send officers as quickly as possible to probable crimes-in-progress to make an arrest. The industry-law enforcement partnership is promoting technology to catch criminals in the act and minimize property losses and damages; false alarm reduction is almost a byproduct of knowing that a video verified alarm is an actual crime.

Deploying a Carrot and Stick Method Response

Even among law enforcement the definition of verified alarm can differ but this is not because the goal is different – police and sheriffs still want to catch the bad guys. The differences are primarily due to the fact that police chiefs want to do what is best to combat crime in their local community, and they can use both a carrot and a stick to improve things. In an effort to be more efficient, some departments will only respond to alarm calls that have been filtered for false alarms by the central station, thereby limiting response to verified alarms. Police departments using this big stick approach of only responding to verified alarms have typically used a broad definition of verified alarm in an effort to include as many alarm systems as possible.

Detroit, for instance, implemented verified-only response but includes cross-zoning, audio verification and video verification in its definition of verified alarm. Other jurisdictions, like Akron, Ohio, continue a broadcast and file response to all incoming alarms. If officers are not occupied at the time an alarm is broadcast, they are encouraged but not mandated to respond.

Using this discretion, Akron officers have responded to 65% of all alarm calls received. Just the initial notification of this new policy in Akron, in and of itself, produced a 10%-15% reduction in general alarm calls coming in from a central station. Other jurisdictions, including many in Texas and California, have adopted a carrot approach where they continue to respond to all alarm calls, but video verified alarms are given priority 1 response.

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