An Alternative for City Officials False Alarms Reduced through Third-party Administration
March 1, 2007
Third-party administration of permitting, fee and penalty programs for burglar alarms can reduce false alarms and increase revenue for municipalities, its adherents maintain.
St. Louis reported that false alarms have been reduced 28 percent from June 2005 to June 2006 over the previous period while third-party administration of the alarm permitting and penalty process has been handled by APB Services LLP, Chesterfield, Mo.
The results of freeing up police from alarm permit and fee administration are not easily measured. “One of the officers over there worked on this virtually full-time and is now doing full-time [police work] in another unit,” reported Charlene Deeken, executive assistant to the director of public safety for the City of St. Louis.
“If other cities are trying to manage a false alarm program, and I understand everybody is, then they might consider some legislation like this,” she recommended.
“The ordinance here in St. Louis is a good set of building blocks to build on for the next couple of years,” said Dan Abert, vice president, Alarm Association of Greater St. Louis. “To see the cooperation between the city, the private sector, the vendors, aldermen, police chief and safety, it’s unprecedented.”
Irving, Texas, also has contracted with a third-party administration company, ATB Services, Colorado Springs, Colo., to administer its alarm program. The city revised its alarm ordinance Nov. 16, 2006 to take into account changes in alarm fees and penalties from the state, pointed out Chris Russell, president of the North Texas Alarm Association.
ATB’s largest customer is Omaha, Neb. Irving, Texas is the next largest. Other customers include Bellevue Neb.; Council Bluffs, Iowa; Papillion, Neb.; Rahway, N.J.; Paradise, Calif.; Olympia, Wash.; Montclair, N.J.; Sparks, Nev.; and Gretna, Neb.
By the end of last year, Olympia’s number of false alarms had decreased 75 percent from its level in 2002 when the municipality began enforcing an alarm permitting and fee system, according to Michael Zelesnik, ATB’s president.
Other false alarm reductions Zelesnik cited are from 30 percent to 40 percent, depending on the number of free alarms the municipality’s ordinance allows. He maintains municipalities that allow three free false alarms have lower reduction rates because 70 percent of customers who have false alarms have no more than three.
Zelesnik and Dan Stocking, ATB’s government relations manager, think that cities do better enforcing their alarm permit fee and fine programs than going to verified response or non-response.
“We’re not aware of any city that uses alarm administration that has gone to verified responses or non-response, because their problem is being handled,” Stocking maintained. He added that usually alarm ordinances must be updated and should follow the models suggested by the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC).
“Only in the last five or six years has third-party [administration] been developing in that area,” Stocking asserted. “The vast majority is not even aware that that solution is out there for them. Once they hear from you, they generally will go with third party, because they virtually have to do very little work.”
But Russell does not see the connection between using improved alarm administration to offset a move toward verified response. “Third party administration has to do with collection of fees and fines,” Russell noted. “That’s not an issue with police departments â€” they have an issue with responding to too many false alarms.
Reported Henry Edmonds, APB’s chairman and CEO, “Cities that have gone to verified response have let the police lead the charge,” he declared. “If they understand there is an alternative that does work, the citizens want the police to respond, and the citizens elect the politicians.
“It’s important to talk to people when the issue is being discussed rather than after a decision is made,” Edmonds concluded. “There are a lot of benefits to the [enforcement] approach, and if they understand those benefits, they may change what they’re pushing for.”