10 Major Cities with a Non-Response Policy for Alarms

by | Feb 12, 2024

Non-Response Policy Cities

It’s a comforting thought: your security alarm goes off in the middle of the night, and within minutes the police arrive to deal with the intruder. You’re safe and your family is safe, so that system was money well spent. The reality? It rarely works that way, especially if you live in a city with a non-response policy. With the prevalence of false alarms, the police simply can’t respond to everything.

As is, police departments and municipalities waste countless hours responding to false alarms. Many are the result of human error—inputting the wrong code, failure to train other users, forgetting the alarm is set, failure to secure windows and doors before turning it on—or equipment malfunction. Regardless of why, it’s a massive problem. Data reveals that anywhere from 90-99% of alarms are false.

As a result, many locales have implemented a False Alarm Program or Non-Respose Policy to save time, money, and resources. Consider:

It’s no wonder that many police departments require crime verification before responding.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing found that authorities respond to more than 36 million alarm calls each year nationwide at a cost of $1.8 billion. Even if “only” 90% of those are false, that’s still 32.4 million false alarms taking officers away from their duties and $1.62 billion wasted.

A non-response policy is a matter of necessity.

Police Response Times

In a perfect world, police departments would have the resources to respond to everything promptly.

But we don’t live in a perfect world, and the police must prioritize certain calls. Dispatchers will consider several factors when deciding on a response:

  1. Number of incoming calls at any given moment
  2. Number of officers available to respond
  3. Number of officers needed to respond to a specific incident

It’s all a numbers game.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics from 2008—the most recent year for which data is available—the national average depends on the above factors and the type of crime.

For an active shooter, the response time is around 3 minutes. For a robbery, 6-10 minutes is the most common. But 47.8% of property crimes and 46.9% of household burglaries are looking at anywhere from 11 minutes up to 1 hour. And when you’re in trouble, that’s an eternity.

Now, you might be thinking that larger municipalities will have a bigger and better-funded police department, allowing them to respond faster to more calls. That’s a reasonable expectation.

But is it true? Let’s take a closer look at the ten most populous cities in the country to find out.

10 Major U.S. Cities and Their Stance on a Non-Response Policy

There are 332 million citizens in the United States and eleven cities with a population of one million or more. Does bigger mean better?

In this case, no.

Without exception, these locations will not prioritize an alarm call unless it can be verified by security personnel, video cameras, or an eyewitness at the scene.

#1 – New York City, NY

  • Population: 8,992,908 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 5.2 violent / 19.6 property
  • Average police response time: 7.7 minutes (2021)

You are required to have an alarm permit for any security system used in the city. You can apply for one through your local precinct.

#2 – Los Angeles, CA

  • Population: 3,930,586 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 7.4 violent / 24.6 property
  • Average police response time: 20 minutes (2021)

The city requires a $43 permit for any alarm system. This must be renewed annually for $26.

The LAPD handles in excess of 100,000 burglar alarm calls each year. 97% of them are false alarms. Penalties for false alarms start at $267 for the first one with a permit, or $367 for the first one without it. Each subsequent false alarm is $50 more expensive for permitted systems ($317, $367, $417) or $100 for permitless ones ($367, $467, $567).

#3 – Chicago, IL

  • Population: 2,761,625 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 8.7 violent / 23.8 property
  • Average police response time: 15.3 minutes (2021)

Chicago has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to false alarms. Each one will cost you $100. There are no exceptions.

#4 – Houston, TX

  • Population: 2,366,119 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 12.4 violent / 42.3 property
  • Average police response time: 10 minutes (2018)

Houston is one of many cities with a non-response policy that kicks in after a certain number of false alarms. Permits are required for both residential ($50 fee, $50 renewal) and non-residential ($122.07 fee, $122.07 renewal) burglar alarm systems. False alarm penalties for both are $50 for the fourth and fifth instances, then $75 for the sixth and seventh. Anything more than seven false alarms is $100 per instance, and a no-response designation.

Non-permitted false alarms are $116.75 each for residential systems and $235.50 each for non-residential systems.

#5 – Phoenix, AZ

  • Population: 1,656,892 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 8.5 violent / 34.4 property
  • Average police response time: 6-8 minutes for priority one and 20-40 minutes for priority two

The Phoenix PD responded to 48,256 alarm calls in 2018-2019, but only 986 were legitimate. That’s a false alarm rate of roughly 98%. Both monitored and unmonitored alarm systems in the city require a permit, available through the Phoenix Police Department Public Records and Services Unit. No permit? You’ll be assessed a $96 fee for every alarm activation that brings a police response. False alarms also come with a $96 penalty fee after the first one.

If the false alarms start to stack up, you might have to prove that everyone at the property has received training on the system or even lose permission to operate your alarm.

#6 – Philadelphia, PA

  • Population: 1,627,134 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 8.1 violent / 26.6 property
  • Average police response time: 9 minutes (2018)

Burglar alarms must be registered with the city at a cost of $50/year. You are allowed two false alarms in any registration year. Beyond that, you will be assessed a $75 penalty for every time. After your seventh false alarm, the city might order you to disconnect your system.

#7 – San Antonio, TX

  • Population: 1,466,791 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 7.5 violent / 42.0 property
  • Average police response time: 6.9 minutes (2019)

Both residential and commercial security alarms need an annual permit at a cost of $40 ($30 for seniors) and $100, respectively. False alarms 1-3 carry no penalty, 4-5 are $50 each, 6-7 are $75 each, and 8 or more are $100 each. Unpermitted residential false alarms carry a $75 penalty for each occurrence, while unpermitted commercial properties pay $125 each time. And excessive false alarms can get your permit revoked.

#8 – San Diego, CA

  • Population: 1,410,791 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 4.0 violent / 19.3 property
  • Average police response time: 38.1 minutes for priority one, 133.3 minutes for priority two, and 216.6 minutes for priority three (2022)

Both residential and commercial properties require a $10 burglar alarm permit in San Diego. This must be renewed annually. False alarms 1-5 will be assessed a formal notice of violation and penalty, starting at $100 and increasing by $100 with each subsequent incidence. False alarm #6 will incur a notice of violation, a penalty fee, and revocation of the system permit. There is a $300 no-permit penalty each and every time.

#9 – Dallas, TX

  • Population: 1,336,347 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 8.6 violent / 36.3 property
  • Average police response time: 8 minutes (2017)

The city requires an alarm permit for residential ($10/year) and business ($50/year) properties. False alarms #1-3 carry no penalty, #4-6 are $50 each, #7-8 are $75 each, and #9 and beyond are $100 each. The San Diego PD explicitly states that “the Chief shall refuse police response to any alarm notification from an alarm site that does not have a valid alarm permit.”

#10 – San Jose, CA

  • Population: 1,033,430 (2023)
  • Crime rate per 1,000 residents: 4.4 violent / 26.0 property
  • Average police response time: 9.2 minutes (2019)

The city of San Jose does not require alarm permits. It has experimented with instating a non-response policy for burglar alarms, ultimately revoking the policy a few years ago. Still, even a security industry representative admitted that these non-verified alarms “are low priority already.”

Other Cities with a Non-Response Policy or Similar Restrictions

This is barely scratching the surface. Finding cities that won’t respond to burglar alarms isn’t exactly a challenging task. More and more cities are implementing non-response policies. And even in locations that will respond to your unverified alarm, there may be caveats, such as escalating fines, required permits, or refusal to respond if you have too many false alarms. (That last one is like a real-life “boy who cried wolf” if you ask us.)

Here are a few more large cities that have noteworthy restrictions on their alarm response policy.

  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Seattle, WA (“police response to alarm calls is a low priority and cannot be guaranteed”)
  • Washington, DC
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Modesto, CA
  • Vallejo, CA

The takeaway? If you have an old-school alarm, check your city’s ordinances. Or upgrade to something better.

Get Crime Verification with Deep Sentinel

False alarms waste time and resources. Police departments simply can’t prioritize an unverified alarm. And a fancy burglar alarm is rendered useless by a city with a non-response policy when a real threat presents itself. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Deep Sentinel offers an unparalleled security solution for residential and commercial properties with live security guards behind each camera.

What makes the system so powerful? Along with advanced security cameras and AI that dismisses non-threats, the guards watch all suspicious situations and intervene live. And when they notify the police, it’s a verified crime in progress. That prompts a priority response from authorities.

To put in point-blank: Deep Sentinel gets the police onsite quickly, even in a city with a non-response policy.

Active monitoring. Zero false alarms. True protection. Now that’s a comforting thought.

Further Reading

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