On June 20, the Madison, Wis. city council approved an update to the city’s alarm ordinance. The passed verified response (VR) ordinance will mean that, beginning on January 1, 2007, alarms must be verified before police will respond. Government alarms and hold-up alarms are all exempt from the ordinance, said Dave Koenig, co-owner of Capital Lock and treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (WBFAA). “The biggest [false alarm] offenders will not even be affected,” he added.

Days after passing the ordinance though, there was buzz that this summer the city will reconsider at least part of the ordinance, according to Koenig. Even though the possibility of exempting residential alarms already was brought up in the city council meetings before the ordinance was passed, the police chief and city mayor said they would support a residential alarm exemption, according to published reports. Madison Police Chief Noble Wray said that all of the 1,600 mechanical alarms police received in the first five months of 2006 were false, and only 11.6 percent of the alarms were residential.

“I have heard they might be reconsidering residential alarm response,” said Jason Sweeney, Madison police officer and author of the city’s verified response report, which helped the ordinance pass, but added that he has not heard anything from the city council.

According to both Sweeney and Koenig, Madison police began discussions with the alarm industry in 2004 on the false dispatch rate and what if anything could be done to rectify the matter. Sweeney said that after more research, he began talking to other city officials that had implemented VR, including Salt Lake City, and Fremont, Calif., and decided that VR was the best alternative for solving the police resource problem completely.

Communication between the state association, alarm industry and police stopped in March 2005, and Koenig said the WBFAA never heard about the alarm ordinance until shortly before a city council committee received a draft of it.

“For the managers of this city and [the Madison] police department, it’s a matter of resources. We have better use of our resources by not responding to false alarms every single time,” Sweeney said. Madison police officers want to focus more on community policing, and being consumed by responding to alarms that most likely would be false is a burden on the city, Sweeney added.

But strong reactions are causing city officials to second-guess at least part of the VR ordinance. Until then, however, VR is set to be implemented first thing in 2007.