Beginning in July, alarm companies in Bend, Ore., will have to verify alarm activations from home security systems before notifying police. 

Moving to a verified alarm response program resulted from the city’s effort “to ensure more efficient and equitable use of our limited public safety resources,” reads a recent letter sent to central stations and alarm companies that operate in Bend, located in the central portion of the state. 

Alarms are among the most common calls for service to Bend Police, but over the past five years the vast majority of alarm activations have been false or did not result in a crime report, The Bend Bulletin reported. The majority of the calls were generated by activated motion detectors at empty second homes and unoccupied businesses. 

Of the 10,274 alarm calls for service between 2016 and 2020, only 76 resulted in police reports, according to Bend Police figures. Those reports were written for a variety of alleged activities, though only 26 were for burglaries. In 2020, there were 1,852 alarm calls originating from 892 different addresses. Of those, 351 were canceled; 1,258 were cleared as false, and 243 were cleared in other ways. The calls resulted in 21 crime reports, including 12 for burglary. 

A small number of addresses appear to be responsible for an outsize number of alarm calls. In 2020, two addresses had more than 20 calls each. Eleven addresses had between 11 and 19 calls, and 60 addresses had five to 10 calls. 

Matt Kehr, president of Safe & Sound Alarm Systems in Bend, told The Bulletin the cause of false alarms oftentimes turns out to be a poorly secured front door blown open by the wind. Or it’s a pet or wildlife exploring an empty second home or unoccupied business. Another major source of false alarms is aging equipment, which have duller sensors and lack verification ability. 

“The biggest problem is always user error,” Kehr said. “I’ve been doing this 33 years and I accidentally set off my alarm. We are imperfect. We make mistakes.” 

According to the City of Bend’s website, verified alarms may include: 

  • An individual at the scene, such as a homeowner or responsible party who is on-site and verifies the alarm is activated due to suspected criminal activity.
  • A responsible party views a “live feed video” of the location and verifies the alarm is activated due to suspected criminal activity.
  • An audio verification of an unauthorized entry at the location and the unauthorized entry is suspected criminal activity.
  • A call from a neighbor who can see the location and verifies that the alarm is activated due to suspected criminal activity.  
  • A combination of an alarm activation with additional motion and glass breakage activations. Additionally, the alarm company must have been unable to reach on-site responsible parties. 

According to the March 15 letter to alarm companies, the city will still respond to certain calls considered priority. These include hold-up or duress alarms that indicate a person is being robbed. Bend police officers will also automatically respond to all alarms at public school buildings, governmental and law enforcement facilities, businesses, pharmacies and locations that store large amounts of firearms.