Efforts by a suspended police chief of Tulsa, Okla., to have verified response for commercial and residential burglar alarms enacted have been put on hold by a vow in a televised mayoral debate by the two leading candidates not to sponsor it.
Former Mayor Bill LaFortune declared in the debate one day before the April 4 election in answer to a citizenâ€™s question that he had promised the alarm industry there would be no verified response.
Mayoral candidate Kathy Taylor echoed the sentiment, reported Ron Wies, general manager of the Monitoring America Alarm Co-op, Tulsa, Okla., and chairman of the Tulsa Verified Response Committee of the Oklahoma Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.
Previously, Taylor as a candidate had expressed to Wiesâ€™ committee lukewarm consideration of enhanced call verification (ECV) as an alternative to verified response, in which police respond only to alarms that are verified as genuine.
â€œKathy Taylor was just blindsided by it in the mayoral debate,â€ Wies suggested. â€œWe got her on the mayoral debate on TV -- itâ€™s pretty solid! When she was elected for a four-year term, we figured we would have at least four years.â€
Since being elected mayor, Taylor has left the police chief in favor of verified response still on suspension. The police chief was suspended by LaFortune, the previous mayor, for an incident unrelated to verified response, in which a report critical of the police departmentâ€™s SWAT team allegedly was not reported to the mayorâ€™s office, Wies related.
â€œThe reality is we will get a new ordinance out of this deal,â€ Wies predicted. â€œIâ€™m sure ECV will become part of the ordinance. From experience, when we get a new ordinance in Tulsa, the ordinance is good for six years before someone is ranting and raving -- thatâ€™s why I say weâ€™ve probably got six years before weâ€™re going to face this again.â€
Wies said Taylorâ€™s officials had indicated they would like to sit down and work with the alarm industry to write a new ordinance that includes ECV, which requires that at least two phone calls be made to verify an alarm before police are dispatched.
â€œWe would really like to see some fees associated with false alarms,â€ Wies insisted. â€œTulsaâ€™s current ordinance is way too liberal when it comes to the whole false alarm issue.â€
He explained that the $30 fee alarm permit holders pay voluntarily entitles them to a police response to their alarms. Those without the permits are not guaranteed a response.
Three false alarms is supposed to result in a permit suspension that carries no fine but necessitates either attendance at a municipal alarm school or having the alarm system inspected by a licensed alarm company and certified as functioning properly.
Once either of those two actions is taken, the permit is reinstated for another three false alarms. If those three occur, both alarm school and the inspection must be done, which qualifies the permit holder for another three false alarms, totaling nine, Wies explained.
â€œThat is the law, but the fact is that the law has not been enforced for many, many years,â€ he revealed, because the city finance department, which previously checked for suspensions, has not staffed that function for years.
â€œWe really feel enforcement should be outsourced,â€ Wies suggested. â€œGet it in the hands of a company whose income is based on enforcing the ordinance. As long as you leave it to the city, even the police department, theyâ€™re not going to have the personnel to do it.â€
The other problem Wies noted is the inability to earmark funds from alarm permits for policing. Instead, they go into the cityâ€™s general fund and can be spent on other city projects.
â€œIf we could get fees with false alarms and the money earmarked for the police department, then the police would have a connection to all this, and once they had income from it, they wouldnâ€™t want to give it up,â€ Wies asserted. â€œWeâ€™re interested in some kind of fee because what we have now is ridiculous.â€