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February 1, 2005 > Burglar Alarms - Accurate Or Annoying And Ineffective Nuisance?

Burglar Alarms - Accurate Or Annoying And Ineffective Nuisance?

Love Them Or Leave Them

Chief Craig Steckler responded to a citizen comment at the Fremont City Council meeting on Jan. 25.

This is a policy decision of the police department based on our research. ... Fines do not reduce false alarms. This has been tried all over the country; fines as high as $250 do not reduce false alarms. According to the alarm industry, every alarm goes off on average 1.5 times a year. The real issue is that we only have so many officers and my decision as police chief is whether we are going to answer alarms or deal with real crime.

In a press release dated Jan. 20, the Fremont Police Department announced that on Feb. 18, it will begin a program of "Verified Response" to alarm calls except for panic, duress and robbery alarms. Alarm companies will be required to verify an "unusual occurrence at the location of the alarm" using video or sound feeds with an eyewitness or private security report from the location.

The department cites "continuing staffing challenges due to budget cuts" and "the fact that false alarms accounted for 98.5 percent of the 7000 alarm calls for service last year." A department cost estimate was in excess of $600,000 for staff time and equipment. Eliminating this service, according to the press release, will allow officers to respond more readily to "core calls" such as violent assaults, domestic violence and robbery.

Unverified alarms will be broadcast to all police units to "be on the lookout" but with no specific assignment. If a patrol is nearby and not currently engaged in police activity, there will be a response to the call. Other cars in the area will be appraised of the situation and respond if warranted.

Alarm industry response:

A joint statement by the East Bay Alarm Association (EBAA), California Alarm Association (CAA) and Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) has responded with concern. It is noted that:

For years, citizens have followed the recommendation of their police departments to install alarm systems to deter crime. A 30-day notice is considered too little time to effect changes under the new policy. Also, citizen input into such decisions is considered vital to public safety policy.

Of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies, only 20 endorse "non-response." The long-term impact of these policies is unknown at this time.

Most false alarms are caused by approximately 10 percent of alarm owners. The rest enjoy the crime deterrence of their alarm systems.

There are proven alternatives to a "non-response" policy.

An accepted standard of measurement for effectiveness of alarm management programs is reduction of dispatches and not the percentage of invalid alarm calls. The Fremont Police Department reported a decrease in dispatches of approximately 30 percent even as the number of properties protected by alarm systems increased.

Want to know more?

The Fremont Chamber of Commerce is hosting a community meeting to discuss the recent change to the Fremont Police Department's alarm response policy on Feb. 3 from 6 - 7:15 p.m., at the Fremont Main Library in the Fukaya B room. There is no cost to attend.

This meeting is not intended to be a debate between those for and against the policy, but rather a forum to discuss what this change means to the community and what the community can do to enhance its security systems.

First, Chief Steckler will address pubic concerns and give a presentation about the new policy and the reasoning for it. Second, representatives from the alarm industry will discuss how the change will impact service and present the options available to the community on how to enhance their alarm systems. Afterward, there will be a question and answer period with the audience. Members of the audience will have the opportunity to submit questions on a provided form.

If you are planning to attend this meeting or have any questions or comments regarding this meeting, please contact Billy Sandbrink, Director of Government Affairs, Fremont Chamber of Commerce at (510) 795-2244 x107 or

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