Last month, the security industry in Milwaukee drummed up support to thwart a new policy meant to reduce police response to unverified burglar alarms.
Last month, Milwaukee became the latest verified response battleground, with security professionals drumming up public support to block a new policy meant to reduce false alarms and police holding firm on their decision not to respond to burglar alarms unless they are verified by someone at the site.

“I’ve had complaints from community groups and alderman about the lack of police response time. In the last two years, we’ve spent 31,000 hours of police time answering false alarms. This is a total waste of time,” said police chief Nannette Hegerty, who said she considers implementing a verified response policy to be one of her top priorities.

“We’re going all out, doing anything we can think of that would educate the public and get them involved. [Public outcry] is the only thing that will change this,” said Mike Horgan, Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (WBFAA) president.

In a letter dated July 15, the police department informed security companies they would stop automatically responding to burglar alarms on Sept. 19.

Now the WBFAA has only one city council meeting left, on Sept.1, to drum up enough public support to convince the police to re-examine the measure.

The WBFAA has called in representatives from the Security Industry Association (SIA) coalition and is taking its cue from the security community in Los Angeles by contacting customers in letters and over the phone, making TV appearances and appearing in newspapers.

Horgan admits that false alarms have gotten out of hand in Milwaukee.“We recognize there is a problem, but verified response is much too drastic and it’s bad for public safety,” Horgan said.

WBFAA board member Dave Koenig named enhanced call verification, and heftier fines as two ways that the industry could work with the department to reduce alarms.

If the ordinance stays on the books, Horgan fears the domino effect.

“There are at least 12 other municipalities in this area considering going to this policy – watching this very closely,” he said.

The Milwaukee police say verified response is the only way to deal with the 28,000 false alarms they respond to each year. Hegerty considers sending police to answer every alarm “subsidizing security companies.”

Her anti-alarm company stance represents a disintegration of security industry-police relations over 13 years.“The lesson here is not to drop your relationship and false alarm effort; otherwise things come back a surprise,” Koenig said.