Los Angeles Limiting Police Response to Home Alarms

by Sarah Harris | |

The promise of the home alarm system has always been deterring, or at least catching, criminals. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out quite like anyone expected, and this is due largely to false alarms, which far outweigh real ones.  

In fact, the Los Angeles Police Department reports that approximately 97% of alarm calls they receive are false, which means responding to them wastes precious resources that could be better tasked responding to other calls where verified crimes are occurring.

Over the years, the LAPD has had to temper their response to alarm calls, instituting policies limiting how officers may respond to these calls.  What changes have been implemented and how do these policies affect you? What can you do to keep your home safe when authorities won’t respond to alarms?

 

NEW POLICIES

With the high number of false alarms and no homeowners or security personnel on-scene to relate to the police whether or not an actual crime was taking place, police were left with no option but to waste time and resources responding to every call, just in case a crime was in progress.  The LAPD eventually determined that they could not continue.

The LAPD convened the Burglar Alarm Task Force in 2003, with input from citizens, community police advisory boards, alarm industry representatives, and more, intent on finding a solution to the growing problem of false alarms and their impact on police resources.  In 2004, the Burglar Alarm Dispatch policy allowed for two false alarms per location each year, after which police response would be limited to only verified alarms (although patrolling officers could respond voluntarily).

The Alarm Ordinance was later revised to institute penalties for multiple false alarms. As of 2012, LAPD officers were still plagued by a 90% false alarm rate, and reported that 15% of police resources were wasted responding to them.  It was because of this that the LAPD made the bold move to stop responding completely to any alarm calls that could not be verified by a homeowner, alarm company personnel, or other sources with eyes on the scene.

The decision was controversial, especially since exemptions were made for the homes of local politicians (as well as panic button calls).  Many not only felt that it was wrong to value specific lives and homes over others, but wondered if the policy would virtually create an invitation for thieves.

 

THE TROUBLE FOR HOMEOWNERS

Naturally, the adoption of a non-response policy without verification by the LAPD has troubling ramifications for residents.  As it stands, only about 17% of houses in the U.S. feature a home security system, and this trend of non-response may make homeowners wonder if installing one is even worth it, since authorities will not respond without verification and roughly 72% of attempted break-ins occur when no one is home. 

The flip side, of course, is that homes without security systems are
300% more likely to be burglarized, probably due to simple fact that thieves check for alarms and may be deterred by them.  In fact, a study conducted by UNC Charlotte found that 83% of burglars look for an alarm, and of that number, 60% won’t break in if there is an alarm present. 

Unfortunately, that means 40% would break in even if there’s an alarm present, and without verification, the police will not respond to the alarm, giving thieves plenty of time to rob the home and escape without a trace, or even harm inhabitants that happen to be home.

 

ALTERNATIVES FOR MODERN HOMEOWNERS

With more and more cities electing to limit police response to only verified alarm calls, homeowners are left trying to figure out how to make their home security systems work with current police policies.  This is where forward-thinking security companies like Deep Sentinel enter the picture, with home surveillance solutions that make a real difference that police do respond to.

Many alarm companies operate on non-visual confirmation of alarms.  When an alarm is triggered, they wait for a short period to see if it will be disarmed by the homeowner.  Then they place a call to allow the homeowner to respond with a pre-set code to confirm that it is a false alarm.  If there’s no answer, they may place a second call, and if they’re still unable to verify a false alarm, they’ll contact the authorities, who may or may not respond, depending on their policy.

This not only wastes precious minutes on a lengthy verification process, but the police may not even respond, or they may place little priority on the call, leaving burglars to ransack the home.  Approved verification is the key to seeing police response in the event of a real alarm situation, and while most alarm companies are stuck in the past, Deep Sentinel has taken a new approach.

deep_sentinelIt begins with visible security features that act as a deterrent to crime, including security cameras that let would-be burglars know they’re being watched. Strobing lights, a loud siren, and 2-way speakers further deter crimes in progress, or even before they start.

If thieves can’t be deterred by the system, Deep Sentinel agents (who have eyes and ears on the scene) provide a speedy verified response, and keep police up-to-date on the situation by the second.  This proactive system not only helps police departments to use their resources wisely, but gives homeowners the protection and peace of mind they expect when installing a home security system.