Verified response doesn’t work, group says

Alarm Association to council: Police proposal would be dangerous

The Prescott Valley Police Department’s proposal to the Town Council to institute a verified response protocol would change the town’s alarm ordinance to one that is unpopular and dangerous, wrote Arizona Alarm Association President Julia Young in a letter to the council.

Young’s letter came in response to the department’s proposal at the Town Council Work Study Session on Thursday, June 15. Only one other community in Arizona has a verified response ordinance and that’s the City of Surprise, Young said in a follow-up phone call.

“Our opposition is it seems to punish the entire community … treats them all like they are chronic abusers,” she said, noting that if she as a homeowner has an alarm system and someone causes the alarm to go off, she has “every expectation that the police will respond.”

Other communities once had a verified response ordinance, but have ended it and others have outright rejected it, according to a list provided by David Margulies who is also with the Arizona Alarm Association. That includes Avondale and Tucson, plus 16 communities in California, 15 communities in Florida, five communities in Colorado, and other communities in Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

Right now, PVPD stated it sends two officers to an alarm response because of the chance that they might encounter someone and if verified response comes into place, the person working to verify that there is someone there and the alarm warrants police response is the homeowner or business owner, Young said.

“That’s what verified response means,” she said, commenting that responding as a civilian can be extremely dangerous. “There are better ways of managing an alarm program.”

Verified response also has an economic impact as hopeful businesses looking to set up shop in the community don’t want to be told that the police won’t respond to an alarm without verification, Young said.

Allyson Walitalo, co-owner of Black Box Gaming said she wouldn’t be a huge fan of the ordinance changing to verified response and would prefer the ordinance go unchanged.

“I’d rather have the police there first dealing with it,” she said. “If they came first, it would make anybody feel safer and better.”

On the other hand, Jeff Riden, owner of The Happy Parrot, said he agrees with the direction PVPD wants to go, mentioning how a parrot can mimic the frequency of glass breaking that would set off an alarm. There are so many ways the system can be upset, he said, also noting he already has an alarm system that calls him when it goes off to verify whether or not he needs assistance.

Though there wasn’t a specific ordinance in mind, Young’s letter outlined what she said are the best practices and alarm response policies that should be considered when developing alarm management. Those include: accepting cancellation of responses, alarm user training classes, escalating and meaningful fines for chronic abusers, notification of all dispatches, required enhanced call confirmation by the alarm company, requiring registration or user permits for alarms, restricting or eliminating response to chronic abusers and strict enforcement of the ordinance.

A strong ordinance that is properly enforced will narrow down abusers and the industry supports restricting or cutting service of those abusers until they get their act together, Young said. Further, with a well-written and well-enforced ordinance, about 85 percent of users will not have someone dispatched to an alarm, she said.

As for the question of who verifies, it could be a guard service working for the alarm company or the company itself sends a couple of people, Young said, bringing up that it’s a question of how much time it should take.

“If there’s a crime happening, the last thing you want to do is delay police response,” she said, adding that there are a whole host of options for ordinances that differ from community to community. However, verified response is “not safe when there are so many options still left on the table.”