The Akron Police Department now intends to implement its policy of “verified response” to home security alarm systems on April 1. That means the start date has been put off one month, reflecting a need to explain the details more fully to residents. The department made progress during a neighborhood meeting this week at the Northwest Akron Branch Library.
James Nice, the city’s police chief, wants to deploy officers more effectively. Currently, officers respond to home alarms, and then discover in almost every instance the alarm is false. That happens roughly 10,000 times a year. As the chief stresses, this practice wastes resources, when the department has few to spare and faces stiff challenges in crime-afflicted neighborhoods.
So, the concept of verified response is sound. What residents with alarm systems want, and with good reason, is reassurance that police officers will respond when they need help. They should know the department will respond to panic alarms or hold-up alarms. Those in danger will see a quick response. Residents could enhance their security by adding a remote panic button to their systems, or other technologies that would help confirm an intruder.
What Chief Nice reasonably seeks is verification that officers belong at the scene. Yet when officers are not on a call, and they see an alarm notification on their cruiser computer, they still will go to the residence or business.
Other cities, including San Jose, Salt Lake and Las Vegas, have made the transition to verified response. Their experience addresses another concern of residents: Will the crime rate spike? It has not. Telling is the response of insurance companies. They continue to see value in alarm systems, discounts likely going to alarm owners. Insurers know that greater protection comes from the monitoring, the sign in the front, the lights and other aspects of an alarm system.
Alarm companies have proposed a compromise, including “enhanced call verification,” an alarm company making additional calls to contact the owner. That would reduce false alarms. Yet Chief Nice rightly has in mind a more substantial reduction, knowing well what other cities with verified response have gained. Salt Lake City saved the equivalent of five full-time officers and improved response times to other calls.
Akron may not gain as much, but the city will be in position to deploy more effectively police resources, all with the aim of making the city safer overall. As the chief emphasizes, it makes no sense for the department to chase so many false alarms, especially when a policy of verified response will deliver what alarm owners want, police officers at the scene when they need them.