A Google search on “verified response” results in plenty of hits.
It’s a hot topic in law enforcement circles, where some police chiefs favor it and others have abandoned it.
The city of Akron is about to join a small group of police departments across the country that have stopped responding to security alarms in homes and businesses until an actual need is verified.
Depleted police ranks, economics and a nearly 99 percent false alarm rate are among the reasons cities such as Akron have cited before adopting the so-called verified response policy.
The Akron Police Department announced its plans for its own no-response policy on Tuesday. After introducing its policy to the community over the next several weeks, the department intends to implement the program in early 2014.
Businesses such as Sam’s Emporium on East Exchange Street near downtown Akron may not notice the change.
Manager John Ruggerio said the store doesn’t have problems with false alarms. Besides, its security system allows him to see inside from his smartphone when an alarm sounds.
Still, Ruggerio says he can empathize with police.
“I understand their point, if they’re running all over for false alarms,” Ruggerio said.
So far, opposition to Akron’s plan has been sparse. But alarms of concern could soon sound as news of the policy races through city neighborhoods and the business community.
In cities such as Dallas, police have tried and rescinded such alarm policies after mounting complaints of safety concerns. Los Angeles considered the policy, studied its potential impact, and decided against it.
On the other hand, cities such as San Jose, Calif., which implemented a verified response plan in January 2012, so far hail the program as a success.
David Margulies, spokesman for the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, an advocacy business group dedicated to the false alarm issue and verified response programs, said Akron should consider alternatives to the no-response plan.
He cited example after example of cities that have tried and rejected the policy. Others who stayed with the plan, he said, have seen increases in burglaries.
In all, he said less than 20 police departments among 18,000 located across the U.S. have verified response policies.
“It’s dangerous for the public,” Margulies said Wednesday. “That’s the main concern, that it puts the public in danger.”
The industry coalition said cities should consider alternative plans to combat the false alarm plague. Those alternatives include verification calls between providers and customers prior to police being called, increased fines for habitual false alarms and redesigned, modernized control panels for security systems.
In Dallas, the city saw false alarms drop from about 56,000 in 2005 to 14,300 in 2007 after it adopted a verified response policy to business security alarms.
Mounting opposition from industry groups and negative reactions from business owners prompted the city to rescind the policy in 2007 after less than two years.
“The fact is there are alternatives. There are other ways to cut false alarms and raise money,” Margulies said.
Essentially, Akron police plan to no longer immediately respond to security system alarms unless a need is verified, either through personal, video or audio observations.
Police Chief James Nice said the move was made to free up officers from the need to respond to incessant false alarms, some 10,000 a year that turn out to be bogus.
The policy will not apply to emergency calls, such as panic alarms.
Few issues in San Jose
In San Jose, police officials say the program has worked well since it was implemented nearly two years ago.
“For us, it’s working great,” said Albert Morales, public information officer for the San Jose Police Department. “We’ve had minimal complaints regarding that, but I think people generally understand what the concept is.”
San Jose followed a similar path being taken by Akron police in introducing the verified response policy well in advance. Morales said the department announced plans to prepare residents and business owners for the change.
During the next several weeks, police and Akron city leaders will be meeting with residents and business owners to inform them of the changes. No implementation date has been set.
San Jose police say they have noticed a slight increase in burglaries. Morales, however, said the rise is more likely the result of fewer officers on the street. San Jose police usually number 1,100. Attrition has left the department with just under 900 officers.
“It’s just a different way of doing police work,” Morales said.