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Sep 01, 2007

Comments

iConcerned Citizen

You've made some bulletproof points here. I hope this really gets the word out.

But I have to say something. Is the graphic for this article really stolen from a stock image website? If so, the irony that you've stolen artwork that has a value for an article about theft is just killing me. Please tell me you paid iStockphoto for the use of this image. If you have, you should have access to a version that's not watermarked.

Michael Davis

Rick,

I am not as informed on this topic as you are, since I'm not a member of the CPI board. That being said...

How is the structure for fines set up? Doesn't it cost several hundred dollars for a police officer to respond? Do the fines reflect such a cost if an officer shows up to a false alarm?

Farinata X

"political pressure from the alarm companies . . . caused the council to cave in on residential alarms"

That's the first place I'd look for the source of Leppert's position on this issue.

Rick Wamre

Regarding the original (and now deposed) image that iConcernedCitizen referred to, it was indeed an image from iStockphoto (for those of you who don't know, that's a website that sells photography and illustrations). We're iStockphoto members, so the occasional piece of artwork in our magazines comes from there, but this particular image was gathered in from Google Images, a free source of (generally) public domain artwork. When I posted it, I have to admit I didn't take a good look at it in "actual size" mode, and it appears that iConcernedCitizen has a good point: The original artwork appeared to have been pirated onto Google Images. Anyway, I removed the offending piece and replaced it with what I believe is a piece of public domain art. In fact, the whole thing worked just like the verified alarm policy: Before the police were called out to investigate the problem, iConcernedCitizen acted like an alarm and informed me (standing in for the alarm company's security detail). I investigated the issue and determined that a real problem existed. At that point, I could have called the police but decided to take matters into my owns hands and deal with the perpetrator myself...

Rick Wamre

Also, in response to Michael's question about false alarm fees: Here are the city's charges for residential false alarms (remember that the alarm must be registered with the city for police to respond in the first place). The State regulates the maximum amount cities can charge, and Dallas' charges are the maximum amounts allowed. The first three false alarms are free (within each 12-month period); the 4th and 5th false alarms are $50 each, the 6th and 7th calls are $75 each, and false alarm 8 or more is $100 each. For those market-driven readers out there, it's pretty obvious that the city can't charge enough for false alarms to pay the actual cost of responding to them or to provide a significant deterrent to frequent offenders, due to the state law. Hope this helps.

Rob Schlein

As a business owner, I have to tell you that I think the Verified Response is a failure. I have been burglarized with more frequency now that criminals know the police won't dispatch. After experiencing the frustration with reporting crime to the police, I stopped calling 911.

Reported crime isn't a valid statistic because many people, like myself, just don't bother. We DO however, see burglaries very much on the increase. Other cities have made adjustments to the VR policy that make sense: Respond to all alarms and track the false alarm problems. Then, respond differently to repeat offenders such as broadcast alerts, etc. Fines go a long way to offsetting the dollar costs.

The number of officers impacted by the policy is miniscule. The city states they save 25 officers to do other things. 25 is under 1% of the entire force. It makes sense to me that responding to alarms keeps a presence of officers on the street and in neighborhoods and businesses.

I agree there is a problem here, but ignoring alarms isn't the answer. The old addage "If a tree
falls in the forest when nobody is around to hear it mean the tree didn't fall?" is relevant.

The true measure for the success of any program is the question, "Is Crime Going Down"? V.R. is an open ticket for theives that burglarize strip shopping centers. I think we need to repeal V.R. and consider a more incremental approach to dealing with the problem...from fines, to increasing licensing fees, to tracking repeat offenders of false alarms.

Rob Schlein

Rick Wamre

Your points are well-taken, but I have a couple of questions for you: Do you have an alarm company monitoring your business? If so, what is the response time of the alarm company? Has that response time improved since verified response was put into place?

The main issue we talked about during our discussions on the commission was the fact that a private alarm company, in order to stay in business, would necessarily need to respond more quickly than 32 minutes (the average police response time). A slow or slower response time would simply send businesses looking for another alternative, and presumably the alarm companies — since they seem to have plenty of money to lobby to change the policy — would be able to use some of that marketing money to improve their service.

The problem with fines is that the state limits how much the city can charge; a fine of $50 or $75 for each false alarm (after the initial three free ones) doesn't cover the cost of a police response, nor does it provide any deterrent to a business owner abusing the system. The licensing fee may be a possibility (I'll have to see if I can find out if state law governs that), but I bet the appropriate fee, high enough to cover all of the additional costs, would be a whopper.

Rick Casner

A house in our area (Caruth Terrace) was robbed yesterday at 5:45 pm.

The following is quoted from our neighborhood email newsletter:

"One thing that came up in discussing this break-in with the homeownerwas that he had let his alarm contract lapse a year ago thinking that the police no longer resonded to alarm calls unless they were verified by a second party. This is NOT TRUE. That new law only applies to businesses, not residences. The police WILL still respond to residential alarms without verification. I thought this was a good chance to clear up any confusion on this matter."

I wonder if more homeowners are under the same impression as the homeowner/victim above?

Rick Wamre

Hopefully, people understand that home alarms are still being responded to by the police, however slowly. Based on how controversial just the business portion of verified response has become, it's hard to see the council stepping up and trying to take that away from homeowners/taxpayers anytime soon.

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