Verified response policies and ordinances continue to gain attention across the United States. SDM will bring you regular updates of the issue. This month, SDM examines two cities and the state of their alarm response, as well as an updated table of areas in the United States that have implemented verified response.

Sonitrol Releases Verified Response Study; SIAC Responds

In an independent study commissioned by Sonitrol Corp., Berwyn, Pa., a provider of verified electronic security solutions, the study found that between 94 and 98 percent of all alarm activations that police respond to are false, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The study, “Verified Response: Lessons Learned” is a survey of 20 police departments in North America that have implemented verified response (VR) policies for more than one year.

“The idea behind the study was that we have seen a lot more activity around verified response and we thought it would be a good idea to talk to the actual police involved, particularly those police departments that have implemented [VR] for one year or more to see the actual policy in effect,” said Alex Gellman, president at Sonitrol Corp.

According to the study, police reduced dispatch rates by an average of 72 percent after implementing VR. The study also finds that burglary rates declined in the majority of jurisdictions with the policy in place for more than one year.

Referring to the drop in dispatch rates, Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), said that a dramatic drop in dispatch rates is not surprising. “When you stop responding to alarms, you will have a tremendous decrease [in police dispatches]. I’m surprised it’s not higher,” Martin said.

The intention of the white paper is to facilitate open lines of communications among police to share actual processes, recommended approaches and results, said Gellman. Quick to respond to the white paper, SIAC distributed a statement voicing concerns about the study and its impacts.

“It is not surprising that a handful of departments that have implemented verified response think it is an effective program. To say otherwise would be to admit they made a mistake and offer their citizens less protection than the vast majority of police departments around the country,” noted the SIAC statement.

Martin said that less than 30 of the United States’ 18,000 police departments use a form of verified response and said that it was outdated. SIAC recommends security companies use enhanced call verification (ECV), a method of making two calls to verify an alarm before dispatching the police, as a method of reducing false dispatches and working with police departments. By implementing false alarm reduction plans, such as ECV and CP-01 equipment, said Martin, the security industry continues to make large strides in reducing dispatches, without police departments implementing VR.

“The vast majority of law enforcement has not considered VR,” Martin said. “The industry over the last eight years has done a terrific job of reducing alarm dispatched by nearly 70%. That’s a great accomplishment.”

Sonitrol is not surprised by negative reactions from some in the alarm industry, Gellman said. “[Sonitrol] promotes and supports more efficient law enforcement. It’s not just a matter of reducing false alarms. It’s creating more effective law enforcement. Apprehensions matter,” Gellman added. Sonitrol advocates a number of ways to reduce false dispatches, not exclusively VR, according to Gellman, and the company does not discount ECV or other false alarm reduction practices.

“ECV, though effective for residential properties, actually shifts the burden to a business owner and gives them little to no intelligence to make an informed decision. We simply don’t think it is unreasonable for the customer, or the police for that matter, to expect the alarm company to provide information about what is actually happening at a location when an alarm goes off, rather than the other way around,” Gellman said.

In response to SIAC’s statement accusing Sonitrol of commissioning the study for financial gain and marketing purposes, Gellman pointed out that Sonitrol is not the only alarm company with technology to verify alarms. “A lot of companies have the technology [to verify alarms] and there is no reason why we can’t work more closely to reduce false dispatches, and also allow police to do their jobs by helping them apprehend suspects,” Gellman said.

While the two parties may not agree on the outcomes of the white paper, both Sonitrol and SIAC advocate communication between the alarm companies and police officials to come up with a false dispatch reduction solution that benefits both sides.