Alarming news raises mixed reactions
Ryan Summerlin February 15, 2013
The recent announcement that, beginning March 1, the Summit County’s Sheriff’s department will no longer respond to unverified alarms has raised concerns among local alarm companies but has the support of the county council.
The new policy came about in response to cuts in the sheriff’s department budget and a high rate of false alarms.
In an effort to free up deputies, beginning March 1, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office will no longer respond to unverified alarms, other than hold-up, panic and distress alarms.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, 98 percent of the burglar alarms it responds to are false. Last year, deputies spent 335 hours on false alarms.
"It sounds like this is an ongoing problem with a lot of jurisdictions," Summit County Councilmember Chris Robinson said. "You can waste a lot of time chasing false alarms. If every time an alarm goes off, they call the cavalry out, you can do a lot of wheel spinning. If it were a high instance of real alarms, I would probably think twice about it."
Robinson said he has never experienced a break-in, but has had several false alarms.
"It’s generally over things like the fire alarm where the kids set it off with something like popcorn," he said. "A few times the fire department has come over and wanted to know what’s going on, but that hasn’t happened for a few years."
Sheriff’s Office Capt. Justin Martinez said he hasn’t heard too much feedback about the announcement yet, either positive or negative.
"It’s always a concern, how the community is going to view it," he said. "I haven’t yet heard anything really positive or negative about it. Most people say it’s fine with them, especially if it’s going to save deputies’ time and keep them from doing frivolous alarms."
Martinez said the alarm companies themselves should be responsible for responding to alarms, and the Sheriff’s Office would provide back-up only if an alarm was verified.
However, Ed Bruerton, owner of Anchor Alarms, said the policy change will negatively impact the public because there are no local guard companies to provide a response for the alarm companies.
"Maybe their neighbor can come over, but if it’s a cabin and there’s no one close by, I guess the burglars are welcome," he said. "Police departments and city councils do this sort of thing all the time without any consultation to the alarm industry, and we just have to live with it."
Bruerton added that while the 98 percent false alarm rate is accurate, the number will always be high because there are so few burglaries.
"If you had no burglaries at all, that number would be 100 percent, even if you had one false alarm," he said. "I laugh and think that the number is wonderful. Don’t you wish it was 100 percent?"
Bruerton said the more important number is how many false alarms there are per customer. He said he sees only one false alarm per customer every five years.
"But now I’ll just have to tell my customers to go over your call list and tell us who you want us to dispatch because the Sheriff isn’t going to do it anymore. He thinks it’s a waste of time to come to your alarm," he said.
Vivint spokeswoman Megan Herrick said she understand when police departments get bogged down with false alarms.
"That can prevent them from responding to true emergencies. That’s why we try to minimize that to the best capacity we can," she said.
Vivint utilizes a two-way panel so the alarm company can hear and talk to residents to find out what triggered the alarm.
"We also call emergency numbers on the person’s list to verify if it’s actually a false alarm or not. If it’s not, or if no one responds, we will dispatch police," she said.
Vivint said they do not have their own responders to dispatch, but she said it’s up to alarm owners to educate themselves about local policies.
"It’s a customer’s due diligence," she said. "We are there to help give that peace of mind and security to the homeowner, but the homeowner also has a responsibility to understand what’s happening in their own community as well."