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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)