Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cause for Alarm?

After weeks of discussion in the papers and on the airwaves, the Dallas City Council approved a new policy on Wednesday called "verified response" for commercial burglar alarm calls.
Your commercial burglar alarm may sound and sound, but don't expect Dallas police to come around.

By an 8-5 vote, the Dallas City Council approved a policy Wednesday that will require private security workers to verify the validity of a commercial alarm before police officers respond.

Police will continue to respond to businesses' 911 calls and human-activated panic-button alarms.

The decision – which came after several months of debate, including heated exchanges Wednesday morning among council members – does not apply to residential burglar alarms.
The original draft of the policy included residential alarms as well, but several council members--not to mention their constituents--went rather ballistic over the idea, so that part of the policy was scrapped.

I can certainly understand both sides of this debate; the police chief notes that 97 percent of all alarm calls turn out to be false, while business owners and alarm company officials have stated that this policy will embolden burglars and make alarm systems' costs go up. One council member also stated that he would not support the policy if it meant that unarmed security guards would be doing the verification, noting that armed ones protected places like City Hall. However, the specific type of guards used for this purpose would be decided upon by the alarm user, and armed responders would almost certainly cost more.

Mayor Laura Miller was quoted as saying that if the verified-response policy works well for commercial users, it might be extended to residential users as well, but I can see the outcry starting all over again if it's proposed anew. Those in opposition to the residential aspect cited fears of elderly or disabled residents (who might not be able to dial 911) being terrorized by burglars. There will be a fine system instituted for habitual (greater than three a year) false alarms at residences.

A caller to a radio show the other day brought up an interesting point--perhaps there would be more police resources to respond to alarms if more officers were "catching real criminals instead of writing traffic tickets. I've written about excessive ticketing before, and I'm inclined to agree with that a little bit. However, if the false-alarm rate really does stand at 97%, that could definitely be considered a waste of police resources.

I guess I'm sitting on the fence on this one. Any thoughts? Chime in using the comments.

Why did the chicken not cross the road? Eric and his fellow traffic reporters would love talking about this one--a truck carrying 7,000 chickens lost its load on the road in Dublin, Ireland, and motorists had to drive (and slide around) on broken eggs. The eggs, no doubt, became rather scrambled...

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