Tag Archives: false alarm

Verified Burglar Alarms Reduce Losses

At a recent International Security Conference (ISC) law enforcement seminar, Chief Chris Vinson of the Texas Police Chiefs Association explained why verified burglar alarms work better: “We will give [them] the priority response [they] deserve. We will arrive on the scene in time to make an arrest. And making those arrests [is] what it is all about because when you increase arrests, you reduce the crime rate. When you reduce the crime rate, you are reducing property loss. When you reduce that property loss, it reduces the insurance rate for those property owners. When those insurance rates drop down [and] the crime rates drop down, then the property values go up, which makes our constituents happy.”

The burglar alarms matter so much because, with a video-verified burglar alarm, an operator at a central station can review on video what is happening at the site before calling 911 center. The operator serves as a virtual eyewitness to a crime in progress. And, when police are sure a crime is being committed, they respond faster and make more arrests.

(To see an excerpt from the seminar, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nX3IzynaUUY)

A recent meeting between several of the major alarm companies and Verisk discussed how best to collect and quantify the advantages of professionally monitored video-verified alarm solutions for the insurance industry. Insurers are looking for technology and data to help them contain costs, and law enforcement and alarm response times are a crucial component. In April 2015, the largest police chiefs association in the country passed a resolution endorsing verified alarms and priority response.

The Texas Police Chiefs definition of a verified alarm requires Central Station monitoring with operators specifically trained to review videos and communicate the pertinent information to law enforcement. Home surveillance systems might work as a nanny-cam but lack the protocols and processes for alarm response provided by the central station. (Here is a link to the Texas Police Chiefs resolution on verified alarms:  http://www.ppvar.org/_asset/wfdzry/TPCA-Priority-Response-Resolution-2015.pdf)

Without technology and new policies, property losses will only get worse as the number of officers declines. At the recent ISC conference, officials from Akron, Ohio, and Chula Vista, CA, said their police departments had already shrunk because of budget cuts, forcing them to reconsider response to alarms — responding to false alarms represents between 8% and 15% of total calls for service at the 911 center. Akron adopted a “verified response policy” in 2014, and over the past year burglaries went down 5%, with increasing arrests.

Retired Capt. Gary Ficacci said Chula Vista was policing 260,000 people with 212 police officers, one of the leanest staff/population ratios in the county. The economic downturn caused the city to lose about 40 officers and provided the impetus to change the alarm ordinance to promote a form of verified response. Chula Vista figures it spends more  than $100,000 in officers and staff for every arrest made in response to a burglar alarm, but video verified alarms could cut that number significantly.

How much better can verified burglar alarms actually be? Radius Security in Vancouver, Canada, just completed a short study of its verified alarms compared with the traditional, unverified alarms. For Radius, its verified alarms were 1,000 times more effective. The arrest rate for unverified alarms is between 0.08% and 0.02%, while arrest rates for verified alarms are often in double-digit percentages.

Why? Because law enforcement treat a verified alarm like a crime in progress instead of something highly likely to be a false alarm.

Texas Chief Vinson says, “The calls that truly merit a higher priority response, those get pushed to the top. Those get the response they need to actually make arrests, and that is what we are all going for here, because if you take that guy off the street that is committing the offenses and you’ve solved that crime you have probably solved a handful of crimes that occurred before that he has already committed that he confesses to. And then you prevent all the crimes that he is not going to commit while he is sitting in jail. So, it is a big deal to make arrests on one of these calls, because it makes a difference in the actual crime rate that affects that city.”

(For video on Radius Data, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlXMGu-lT7g)

Modern Burglar Alarms Remain One Of The Best Defenses Against Losses

In the past few weeks, we have published two articles by Keith Jentoft, the Partnership Liaison of the nonprofit Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response, regarding the use of video verified alarms. Recently, David Margulies of the Margulies Communications Group approached us and asked if we would be willing to publish an article which provides a different perspective. David's article appears below.

There is no question today that alarm intrusion systems are often one of the first lines of defense against insured losses from crime. According to the Electronic Security Association, which represents the majority of companies in the alarm industry, the breakdown for intrusion alarms shows them protecting virtually every type of insured business enterprise:

  • residential: 40%
  • commercial (office buildings, retail, banks, etc.): 30%
  • institutional (schools, hospitals, churches, etc.): 11%
  • industrial (factories, warehouses, utilities, etc.): 12%
  • government (local, state, federal Facilities): 7%

In a national survey of police chiefs, 90 percent acknowledged that alarms both deter burglary attempts and increase the probability of a burglar being apprehended. Of the nation's approximately 18,000 public safety agencies, only a handful require confirmation from a business owner, witnesses or security guard before police are dispatched to an alarm site.

One of the most in-depth and comprehensive studies of the effectiveness of alarm systems in preventing losses was conducted by the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice (SCJ). The study found that in Newark, New Jersey, residential burglar alarm systems decreased crime. While other studies have concluded that most burglars avoid alarm systems, this is the first study to focus on alarm systems while scientifically ruling out other factors that could have impacted the crime rate.

Researchers concentrated on analyzing crime data provided by the Newark Police Department. “Data showed that a steady decrease in burglaries in Newark between 2001 and 2005 coincided with an increase in the number of registered home burglar alarms,” said study author Dr. Seungmug (a.k.a. Zech) Lee. “The study credits the alarms with the decrease in burglaries and the city's overall crime rate.”

In short, the study found that an installed burglar alarm makes a dwelling less attractive to the would-be and active intruders, and protects the home without displacing burglaries to nearby homes.

The study also concluded that the deterrent effect of alarms is felt in the community at large. “Neighborhoods in which burglar alarms were densely installed have fewer incidents of residential burglaries than in neighborhoods with fewer burglar alarms,” the study noted.

The alarm industry has aggressively addressed the issue of false alarms because of concerns that they were putting a strain on police resources. In 2003, industry leaders created the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) which is comprised of four major North American security associations — Canadian Security Association (CANASA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) and the Electronic Security Association (ESA) — representing one voice for the alarm industry on alarm management issues. The Security Industry Alarm Coalition's primary charter is to significantly reduce calls for service while strengthening the lines of communication with law enforcement professionals and end users.

“Eighty-five percent of the nation's alarm systems generate no calls to the police in any given year,” said Stan Martin, Executive Director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition. “People who say that 98 percent of reported burglar alarms are false are trying to justify ending police response to alarms without human verification of a crime (verified response). These people have failed to perform their due diligence on public safety and industry best practices.”

Working in a partnership with law enforcement, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition has helped communities significantly reduce the number of alarm calls made to police by promoting industry and law enforcements best practices including:

  • The model ordinance requires registration of all alarm systems.
  • Two phone calls by alarm companies to alarm owners prior to calling police.
  • Technology designed into systems to avoid accidental triggering.
  • Fines for alarm owners who create unnecessary dispatches.
  • Suspending response to the chronic abusers.

According to a study just released by the Urban Institute, these steps allow communities to maintain police response while conserving law enforcement resources. The study notes that Montgomery County, Maryland was able to save $6 million in costs and reduce alarm calls by 60 percent. The reduction in alarm calls from 44,000 to 16,000 came despite a significant increase in the number of alarm systems.

According to Glen Mowrey, the National Enforcement Liaison of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition:

  • Marietta, Georgia reduced alarm calls 65 percent in two years with annual revenues of $223,050 in 2008 and $94,800 in 2009;
  • Johnson City, Tennessee reduced alarm calls 50.1 percent over a four-year period;
  • Union City, Tennessee showed a reduction of 55.4 percent over a four-year period; and,
  • during a 14-year period, the police department in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina brought down its percentage of alarm calls, out of total calls for service, from 20.1 percent to 2.4 percent annually, netting 13.5 police officers and an annual revenue in 2009 of $334,470, which includes a reimbursement for 2.5 full-time employees from an outsource company contracted to administer the billing and tracking component.

As new technology emerges, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition is at the forefront of helping develop standards and policies with its partners in the law enforcement community. “Alarm systems and technology are constantly changing and improving,” said Stan Martin, SIAC Executive Director. “Our major and long established trade and professional associations that support SIAC are constantly working to make sure there are standards in place to properly apply this technology.”

“The working relationship between public safety agencies and the alarm industry has never been stronger,” said Mowrey, not only the National Enforcement Liaison of SIAC, but also the former Deputy Chief of Police in Charlotte/Mecklenburg, North Carolina. “Eleven states have created state-wide committees to work with the industry on alarm issues and they all have adopted some form of SIAC's model alarm ordinance.”

The Security Industry Alarm Coalition also serves as the industry's voice working with national law enforcement organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs Association.

Through the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, the alarm industry is always available as a resource to the insurance industry for questions, concerns, or more information on how the alarm industry can continue to protect the insured from unnecessary losses.

Video Verified Alarms And Priority Response – How Does It Work?

Traditional burglar alarms have lost much of their value as a tool for loss control, but video alarms are taking their place. Police response to burglar alarms is degrading and in many cases police departments have stopped responding to traditional alarms unless they are verified.

Millions of traditional alarm systems have created an enormous problem, wasting shrinking police resources on millions of false alarms. It is a big concern that has the attention of national law enforcement leadership.

International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) president, Chief Craig Steckler specifically addressed false alarms as a key issue in his inaugural address of October, 2012, “According to studies, last year there were more than 38 million false alarm calls in the United States. In many agencies alarm calls were the number one call for service, and statistically, these calls often account for nearly ten percent of all the calls for service the agency handles on an annual basis. Additionally, every study of the issue continually finds that 95 to 99 per cent of all alarms are false.” Chief Steckler bluntly states, “We must take a critical look and unbiased look at false burglar alarms, and determine whether in the new norm, this type of call (police responding to alarms) is truly a prudent use of severely limited resources.”

Chief Steckler is not exaggerating. Police consider traditional burglar alarms an enormous waste of resources. Officers no longer make arrests, and alarm companies focus on selling deterrence instead of apprehensions. From the police perspective, many simply no longer care.

The situation has degraded to the point that many major cities like Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, San Jose, and Milwaukee stopped responding to traditional burglar alarms altogether. This trend is gathering momentum. The public/private partnership of the police/alarm company/insurance industry has atrophied, and neither the police nor underwriters find effective loss control in traditional burglar alarms.

In contrast, this video underscores the value that law enforcement places on video verified alarms to combat property crime. The president of the National Sheriffs Association describes Priority Response and how effective they are at delivering arrests. There are many actual video clips of real burglaries in the video itself.

Response Differentials
Video verified alarms are an increasingly important evolution to combat property crime. They continue to deliver priority police response and lead to arrests. The reason is the video verified alarms mean that police respond faster to the alarm, making arrests and reducing claims.

The “response differential” between a traditional alarm and a video verified alarm is significant. The following chart illustrates the differences in different sample cities across the USA: large and small, east and west, north and south. The key issue is that video verified alarms deliver police response faster, around 15 minutes faster in many jurisdictions. Those 15 minutes makes a big difference in reducing claims for property crime.

Jurisdiction Video Alarm Traditional Differential
Boston, MA 7:38 21:00 13:22
Charlotte, NC 5:10 13:30 8:20
Chula Vista, CA 5:05 19:18 14:13
Watertown, MA 4:00 23:00 19:00
Fairfax County, VA 6:00 18:02 12:02
Salinas, CA 2:54 39:25 36:19
Amarillo, TX 10:06 19:24 9:18

Real Examples Of Alarm/Police Interaction
Perhaps the most effective way to illustrate the value of video verified alarms is to show 4 actual examples of real events with different outcomes based upon the alarm and jurisdiction. This is what the alarm business really looks like from the police side of things. Two of these examples lead to arrests. Insurers must realize the importance of central station dispatchers using video to become virtual eyewitnesses to a crime in progress.

All of the examples are not positive. In the final alarm, the 911 call taker says to the central station operator: “This doesn't meet our criteria for response,” meaning that the municipality won't respond to the alarm without the video verification. The central station operator sounds a bit stunned on the phone. But this is the scenario that is happening increasingly around the country. This last example is what insurers are trying to avoid by promoting video verified alarms to their policy holders.

Now What?
We need a strong public/private partnership to combat property crime. Underwriters must answer the question, “How can we encourage policyholders to use video alarms and police response to reduce losses?”

One answer would be to join the Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response (PPVAR), a nonprofit public/private partnership based in St. Paul, Minnesota. The organization brings together alarms companies, insurers, and law enforcement to promote Priority Response and Video Alarms to reduce property crime and insurance losses. The PPVAR board of directors includes law enforcement, alarm companies and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) that is supported by 1,100 property/casualty insurance companies.

To further strengthen leadership from the insurance industry, the PPVAR recently added Verisk Crime Analytics Vice President Anthony Canale to its board of directors. There are now two strong insurance organizations to help build the partnership with law enforcement and the alarm companies. Verisk owns and operates national crime databases that provide services to the construction, retail, transportation, manufacturing and insurance industries.

“Our involvement with the PPVAR fits with the mission of Verisk Crime Analytics to use data and analytical tools to support public safety operations and to help our clients reduce the impact of crime,” said Canale.

As the successes grow, the PPVAR is expanding its membership in the insurance industry — individual insurance companies joining the partnership and embracing the message. The PPVAR welcomes additional insurance companies and associations to work with us to help use video alarms to reduce claims and losses.