Akron police Capt. Paul Calvaruso has spent the past several weeks visiting city wards and meeting with residents and business owners who have questions about the department’s new security alarm policy, slated to go into effect on March 1.
The Beacon Journal has also received a number of phone calls and emails concerning the policy change.
Below are a sampling of the most commonly asked questions and the department’s responses.
Q: Why did Akron decide to move to a verified alarm response policy?
A: On average, Akron police officers respond to more than 9,000 alarm calls per year. More than 98 percent of those calls are false. This translates into approximately $200,000 worth of police officer time being used responding to false alarms. This time could be used more efficiently in proactive policing activities.
Q: Are there any additional costs to alarm owners?
A: No. The city of Akron will be suspending licensing fees for a one-year period. Additionally, it is likely alarm users will incur less costs, as the number of false-alarm fees being assessed should be drastically reduced.
Q: When will an officer respond to an alarm?
A: There will be no change as to how officers currently respond to panic, duress and hold-up alarms. Intrusion alarms will have to be verified before officers will be dispatched. Additionally, all alarm drops, whether verified or not, will be transmitted to officers working in their cruisers. If an officer is not on a call at the time, he or she will be expected to respond.
Q: What will qualify as a verified alarm?
A: So far, the basic criteria that will need to be satisfied are: confirmation of an intrusion/attempted intrusion by a licensed security agency representative; an actual visual account that an intrusion is occurring, e.g., from a neighbor, homeowner, etc.; live video depicting an intrusion; live reliable audio confirming that an intrusion is occurring; a perimeter alarm breach in conjunction with an internal motion detector breach. This is subject to change as the department moves forward.
Q: Can we expect an increase in burglaries with implementation of this new policy?
A: No. Akron police say that when they examined the law enforcement agencies that moved to a verified response policy, none have seen any significant increase in the rate of burglaries.
Q: What about residents who recently signed a contract and now, it appears, APD won’t respond?
A: That is an issue that police hope the customer will be able to resolve with their alarm company in lieu of the new policy being implemented. Calvaruso said the department shared this customer concern with the alarm companies at a recent meeting.
Q: Why should I even purchase an alarm system? Is it worth it considering APD’s new policy?
A: Police believe alarms are a deterrent to crime. If you have an alarm system, statistics have shown that you are significantly less likely to be a burglary victim. Police suggest you shop around to secure the best deal you can to adequately meet your security needs.
Those needs may include the value you place on your alarm company’s ability to meet new verification standards in order to generate a police response.
Q: Will I still need to register my alarm with the city?
A: Yes. Even though licensing fees will be suspended for at least one year, residents will still need to register their alarm system with the city.
Q: Residents recently received a letter from their alarm companies. Is all the information contained in that letter true?
A: Calvaruso said chances are, not all the information is correct. He said two companies recently circulated letters that are misleading and contain a significant amount of inaccurate information.
“Sending those types of letters out does a disservice to us all. Hopefully, the above questions and answers will assist you in becoming more familiar with the actual details of the new policy,” he said.
Q: Are there any other cities that have adopted a verified response policy?
A: Yes. The below cities are similar in size to Akron or larger. Many of them have had this policy in place for a decade or more. Las Vegas; Tucson, Ariz.; Henderson, Nev.; Salt Lake City; Milwaukee; Madison, Wis.; Eugene and Salem, Ore.; Aurora, Colo.; Fremont and Modesto, Calif., and Detroit.
Q: When will this change take effect?
A: Police want to allow enough time for all parties to make adjustments in order to prepare for the transition to the new policy. A March 1 target date remains in place.
For more information, call Capt. Paul Calvaruso’s office at 330-375-2900. Questions may also be sent via email at pcalvaruso@AkronOhio.gov.