Commercial burglaries in Dallas have increased 17.9 percent during March.

Dallas commercial burglaries for March 2006 have increased 17.9 percent compared with March 2005, according to city statistics. “In the first month of verified response for business burglar alarms in Dallas, a key statistic shows the failure of the policy,” voiced the North Texas Alarm Association (NTAA) in a statement.

“A proposal that was supposed to help police fight more crime has instead led to a predictable increase in crime. This is why fewer than 30 of the nation’s approximate 18,000 police departments utilize verified response,” continued Chris Russell, president of the NTAA.

The rise in business burglaries comes one month after the Dallas verified response policy — which only applies to commercial burglar alarms — took effect. While commercial burglaries increased, residential burglaries in Dallas decreased by 19.7 percent between March 2005 and March 2006.

Opponents of verified response say that a rise in burglaries is common after passing a verified response policy and point to an increase in burglaries in other cities that have passed verified response policies or ordinances including Fremont, Calif., and Salt Lake City. “The first thing,” said Ron Walters, director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), in response to the rise in Dallas business burglaries, “is this is not a surprise to us. Fremont had an increase and if you look at average statistics of the years while Salt Lake City has been in non-response, their burglary rate is still up.”

But, admits Dave Simon, senior manager of industry and public relations at Brink’s Home Security Inc., a one-month rise in statistics is not long enough to qualify as a trend in Dallas. “If burglaries continue to rise after six months then you have a trend and a clearer situation that verified response is not working the way the proponents said it would,” Simon said.

The important issue that Dallas’ statistics bring up, said Walters, is that city officials need to be willing to revisit the issue when there is an increase in burglaries and overall crime statistics after passing a policy such as verified response.

“Nobody really wants to go back and look at it again,” Walters said. “Ultimately the citizens end up paying.” There is a very small chance that a city would reverse verified response after it has been passed, even if the city experiences a large increase in crime, he added. With elected officials moving in and out of office on two- or three-year cycles, what might have been passed a year or two ago is forgotten and not looked at again, Walters said. “While one month [of increased burglaries in Dallas] does not make a trend,” he continued, “it warrants looking at [the ordinance] again.”

Walters pointed out the example of Murray, Utah — a small town about nine miles outside of Salt Lake City, which reversed its decision to practice verified response after implementing it for one year. “It was a very political issue when it passed in Murray,” Walters said. “Yet the police chief was bold enough to [tell the city council] that the police department had not saved any time, dollars or manpower,” with verified response in place.

With verified response being such a controversial issue, all eyes will be on the city of Dallas to see where the burglary and crime statistics go from here. Even if the Dallas city council doesn’t revisit the ordinance already passed for commercial burglar alarms, there will be a public discussion on the issue if the city decides to pursue a verified response ordinance for residential burglar alarms. “We may get a second look at this in Dallas if they go residential,” said Simon.