Police chiefs and sheriffs are required to make decisions every day about what must be done to protect and service their community. In order to make these critical decisions, they need the most current information available in order to analyze and integrate the best knowledge into their decision making process.

In the past two years, our industry has realized that there is very little serious scholarly research and academic work relating to how our alarm systems and service work in relationship to public safety. In the absence of serious study, we have been victimized by anecdotes and rhetoric that have no basis in fact. Further, we found that there is very little credible research available for those making decisions on these very serious public safety policy issues.

That is why I was pleased to join the Public Safety Technology Forum (PSTF) as a Founding Director and Senior Fellow. The PSTF is a public policy think-tank promoting serious study of all aspects of integrating technology into public safety policy and programs. My interest is in effective alarm management, including alarm response policies, but the PSTF will cover other areas including biometrics, CCTV, and other technologies. We will be looking at each of these areas and promoting study on legal, public policy and other issues that are important to policymakers.

Developing, implementing and managing alarm response polices is certainly worthy of this work because of the contribution that alarm systems make to the safety and security of a community. When a homeowner has an alarm system installed, they not only feel safer, they are safer. They are three to six times less likely to be burglarized, according to national and regional studies. These alarm systems rely on professional law enforcement personnel as the first responders, recognizing that this response contributes greatly to the effectiveness of the alarm system technology as a crime deterrent and an effective tool in repressing burglaries. If you eliminate the professional police response, as happened in Salt Lake City, the negative impact on alarmed properties and the community is tangible. The Salt Lake City Police Department reported in May 2003 that in the first two years of verified response, the burglaries against alarmed properties rose 25 percent.

What Salt Lake City has proved is that alarm response, managed efficiently, contributes greatly to the increase in public safety and saves police resources. They chose another course, and the negative impact on their community and their department is now becoming clear. I would expect that any law enforcement professional reviewing the facts would avoid the mistakes of verified response and continue to work with the community and the alarm industry to achieve their goal of reducing crime in the community.

Having sound facts and information will also help policymakers make the best decisions that will enhance safety and security for every citizen. They can only do this if they have an understanding of the benefits of integrating technology into their public safety matrix.

The work has begun, and I encourage you to participate and pay attention to the information that is available and will become available. I certainly have changed my perspective about the value and importance of the work that my company does and the contribution that we make, not only to our customers but to the community. I am sharing that information with my employees, with my customers, with my friends in law enforcement and my elected officials. I think you may change your view, as well, and will want to share this information in your community.

For more information, visit www.PSTForum.org.