Security alarms, both home and business have become more commonplace. As their numbers have increased, so has the very significant problem of valuable police resources being used to respond to false alarm calls. The issue has become so substantial, in fact, that in 1994 $4.1 million of the Dallas Police budget was spent to responding to, investigating, and recording false alarms! This should be a concern of every citizen in Dallas. Whether you have an alarm or not, everyone pays for this problem through their taxes and delayed police response times.
In 1994, more than 134,000 calls for police response to alarm sites were logged. The volume of false alarm calls continues to increase every year.
Of these 134,000 calls 98% were false alarms, in which no evidence of break in or attempted break in was found.
False alarm calls represent 20% of all calls made by police officers in Dallas.
False alarms prevent police from attending to real emergencies. Police resources spent in 1994 were equal to more than 80 fully trained, fully equipped police officers.
Dallas Alarm Ordinance
In May of 1994, a new alarm ordinance went into effect in an effort to alleviate the strain on police resources. Some highlights from this ordinance are as follows:
An annual permit is required. The initial permit and annual renewal fees are $50.00 for individual residential and apartment sites and $100 per commercial site.
The alarm company must train the applicant in the proper use of the system and provide written operating instructions, including written guidelines on how to avoid false alarms.
Repeated false alarms may require a conference between the police department, the alarm permit holder and the responsible security company.
A service fee of $50 is charged for each false alarm notification in excess of five per 12-month period.
The permit may be revoked for failure to pay service fees or violation other provisions of the ordinance.
Police may refuse to respond to any alarm site for which the permit is revoked.
Violation of any provision of the ordinance is punishable by a fine of $500.
As of January 1996 – DPD will not respond to locations without valid alarm permits.
What can you do?
As a crime watch chairperson for your area, you can play an important role. Repeated false alarms are the joint responsibility of the alarm owner and the security company. Too often people shrug their shoulders because they don’t understand their system and don’t know what to do about the problem. Inform your neighbors of the depth of the problem and offer solutions in you meetings, newsletters, and voice mail.
Several suggestions you may make to your neighbor are:
Alarm users who experience even one false alarm should contact their security company to determine the cause or arrange for a check-up of their system. Sometimes the problem is mechanical in nature and easily can be adjusted. Some of the most common causes of false alarms are motion detectors improperly set for the circumstances of the home, indoor pets, weak batteries, and unlatched or loose fitting doors and windows.
Alarm owners should request further training and written instructions from their security company for all household members. Often children, other household members, or employees accidentally set off the alarm and don’t know what to do.
All household members and employees who have access to the home should memorize the security code. Most monitoring companies try to verify whether the alarm is valid by phone, but they often reach a household member who doesn’t remember the code. As a result, the monitoring company must forward the call to the police department. If cleaning or other service people have keys and will enter the home, they need to be given codes and training. This should not be a security concern if they already have access to your house.
Many of us have neighbors whose alarm seems to go off all the time. How do we react? It is very much like the old fable of the little boy who cried wolf. We don’t pay attention to it at all! We assume it is just another false alarm and go on about our business. Security alarms can serve, as a deterrent to certain types of crimes and the police department does not want to discourage their use. However, careless use of alarms affects all of us.
Even one false alarm is too many. If every Dallas alarm site experiences only one or two false alarms per year, the rate would exceed the already too high number of false alarms. Every single false alarm should be investigated to determine the cause and take corrective action. If reduction of the false alarm problem is not achieved through voluntary compliance, stricter ordinances and more sever fees and fines may be the next step.
For more information about security alarm requirements, contact the DPD Alarm Unit at 214-671-4120. For information about alarm permits, renewals, and service fees, contact the City Tax Office, Customer Service Department.