The use of verified response as a means by which city and county agencies can reduce their overhead burdens by reducing overtime and eliminating administrative involvement in record keeping and adjudication of alarm response programs, further reducing costs for those agencies. In fact, between 94% and 99% of all 36 million false alarms that police responded too every year in the US cost taxpayers $1.8 billion.
So what is verified response? An ordinance, code or law that requires alarm companies to first verify through an eyewitness (security or private party responder), monitored conclusive audio or video that a burglary has occurred or is occurring before police are dispatched to the location of the alarm. This is where a lot of people stop and take issue with the concept of a verified response ordinance, because it takes the police out of the business of responding to their alarms. Most agencies approach to this subject matter has been pretty clear cut in that respect – according to the City of Burien’s verified response ordinance, “the Burien Police Department annually responds to approximately 1,300 alarms of which approximately 99 percent are false” and “responses to false alarms have diverted the annual equivalent of approximately nine percent of the directed calls for service for the City of Burien, and” “responses to false alarms thereby may endanger the public by preventing, diverting, or delaying police officers from patrolling a neighborhood; responding to calls for service; or investigating and solving crimes, and” “the use of tax dollars to pay for responses to false alarm systems confers a private benefit to an alarm company because it is the alarm company – not the City’s police force – that should be tasked with the verification of responses and/or the provisions of private security personnel, whereas this allocation of a private benefit is not in the public interest and may result in diminished public safety and whereas the use of tax dollars to cover the costs of responses to false alarms unfairly requires the estimated 75 percent of taxpayers who do not own alarms to subsidize the costs of response to their net detriment, and whereas, private firms in the local area offer private response services for a fee, but most alarm owners instead rely on the “free” service provided by the Burien Police Department, and whereas, law enforcement’s continued responses to alarms is hazardous and unnecessarily puts police officers, citizens, and visitors at risk” “the city wishes to shift responsibility for response to alarms that have not been verified to the alarm companies”.
That’s a mouthful, but it reflects the attitudes of over 30 cities around the country, the likes of Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Yakima, Bellingham, Eugene, Tucson, Milwaukee, Salem, Aurora and many more, not only because of the cost savings, but in the improvements in overall efficiencies as it relates to the delivery of police services. For example, 23 agencies with VR laws on the books recently responded to a survey from a national alarm company. Those agencies all reported measured improvements in their overall response times, between 29 seconds per call, up to around 8 minutes, with other examples ranging in between. The Salem Police Department reported that they had marked increases in the amount of traffic citations issued by their police officers after they stopped responding to false alarms. In fact, of the 23 responding departments, all cited cost savings of between 1 Full Time Employee up to 150 Full Time Employee’s costs in one calendar year. The numbers are staggering. Salt Lake City Police saved just over $508,000, just by enacting a verified response ordinance.
With all of the talk of police departments cutting back and laying off police officers, the relatively simple solution of enacting a verified response policy would seem to be a great means by which to curb costs, improve efficiency and allow departments to retain personnel on patrol, rather than keep making deeper and deeper cuts.
But what about the possibility of increased burglary rates, or apprehensions of burglars from ‘in progress incidents’ going down because of this kind of law? None of the cities surveyed cited an increase in burglaries that was attributable to the verified response ordinance. Also, most agencies reported a marked increase in the number of burglars caught in the act, because a third party responder hired by the alarm company, such as a private security alarm responder was getting there much faster than the police, and where a burglary was occurring, reported it as in progress crime, which is a higher priority call, garnering a fast police response, allowing for the bad guys to get caught. Agencies reported their Officers were from 5.5 to 13 times more likely to make an arrest resulting from a private verified response, than if they were themselves the initial responder to a burglary alarm.