Guest Editorial, April 24-26, 2013 |

Guest Editorial, April 24-26, 2013

Norman Schwartz, Park City

I have been a Park City resident for over seven years, live in the Jeremy Ranch area, and feel vulnerable to potential burglaries as I-80 is a great getaway escape route for criminals.

I travel frequently and love the comfort of knowing Peak Alarm has a very fast response time and the ability to dispatch when the alarm sounds. I believe I have had only one false alarm in seven years that resulted in a call to actually dispatch.

I am distressed by the sheriff’s decision not to dispatch officers without a corroboration of break-in. By the time this would happen, criminals would be loaded and gone.

I am also sympathetic to the sheriff’s plight as he attempts to balance the economics of costly false alarms and excellence in law enforcement. He claims 1,076 false alarms last year, 98 percent of the alarm dispatches. This is a costly problem for his budget to bear.

I think there needs to be a sensible balance between high-quality law enforcement and economics. The costs could be borne in several ways.

I have lived in other communities that sent a bill for false alarms. I have seen $25 for the first false alarm and $50 for each additional false alarm per year.

A second solution is a mandatory "annual alarm registration fee." I have heard an estimate that there are approximately 3,500 alarms in the sheriff’s jurisdiction. If so, a $20 "alarm registration fee" would generate $70,000 annually, which should go directly to the sheriff’s budget or his department. Assuming the accuracy of the foregoing, that would equate to about $208.96 per hour for the 335 wasted deputy man-hours ($70,000 divided by 335 hours).

Let the people with alarms pay for the added deputy costs. I would be the first to volunteer.

I understand there is an issue with this concept, as an alarm registration fee might be paid to Summit County, not directly to the Sheriff’s Department. Consequently we would need the County Commissioners to draft a law to allow the alarm registration fees to be paid directly to the Sheriff’s Department.

Administratively, identification of and communication with the alarm owners would be handled by only the alarm companies when they bill customers. There would be little or no county or sheriff’s administrative costs.

This is a far better and easier solution than inviting burglars, or worse, to a "free pass" with no timely law enforcement available. This has already been advertised in the newspaper via multiple stories.

If this logical approach is flawed, there is one additional idea to consider. Alarms are installed with sensors and zones one zone for perhaps each entry door and others for motion sensors in key areas of homes and businesses. Perhaps alarm companies should not be able to dispatch without at least 2 zones indicating a signal or personal confirmation of a break in. If there is an actual break in, not false alarm, a criminal would normally trip at least 2 sensors. A false alarm is normally only one sensor.

I think the registration fee is the best alternative and could actually produce a profit, but the funds must go directly to the Sheriff’s Department.

Alternatively, I would suggest a panel be formed to investigate all alternatives. I would be happy to volunteer.

The sheriff’s office and Peak Alarm have said they have not received an inordinate number of complaining calls yet. It is logical to assume that a high percentage of alarm customers are second-home owners and have never been notified of the impending changes. The outrage will surely come when someone (in the 2 percent of real alarms) comes home and is told by their alarm company that the sheriff wouldn’t respond to the alarm going off.

Let’s pull together, solve a problem, and still protect our homes, businesses and budgets.

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