Council Approves Verified Response for Commercial Properties Only

Today the City Council approved verified response for commercial (not residential) properties.

Because 97% of all alarms are false, starting in February, the police will no longer respond automatically when a commercial burglar alarm goes off. The business will first have to confirm that there is a crime taking place. The ordinance will not apply to residential properties.

I voted in favor of this version of verified response primariliy because our Chief of Police explained that it would help him get 20 more officers on the street instead of chasing false alarms. We’ve got a real shortage of police (which we must fix), but instead of using them to patrol our neighborhoods, we’ve got them out there chasing alarms that are false 97% of the time.

We hired the Chief to be our top strategist on how to improve the safety of our city. He has to use his experience and best judgment to make resource allocation decisions. And Chief Kunkle has overseen a 17% reduction in homicides this year and a 5% decrease in overall crime. When he supports an initiative to get more cops on the street, I think we need to listen.

VOTE: Passed 8:5 (AH voting yes, DH absent, JF conflicted)

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Verified Response: A Good Idea?

Dallas Police Chief Kunkle has recommended that the City go to a verified response system for burglar alarms in order to free up police to respond to other crime. The proposal is to require alarm companies to respond first to their burglar alarms, then contact the police only after verifying that an actual crime is occurring. The city would still respond immediately to burglar alarms that are the result of someone pressing a panic button. Residential alarms would no longer require a permit fee. Commercial alarms would still pay a permit fee.

The verified response proposal arose due to the incredibly high rate of false alarms. In 2004, the DPD received about 62,000 burglar alarm calls. Of those, 97% were false alarms (60,100). Responding to these false alarms took approximately 47,000 police officer hours, which equals about 41 full-time police officers at a cost of approximately $3.485 million in police time. This takes our officers away from responding to real crimes in our city.

Many residents have written me to suggest that the City increase the false alarm fee. Unfortunately, the State Legislature has taken away a city’s ability to set false alarm fees, and cities may only charge $50 after the first three false alarms.

I was initially very supportive of the verified response system, given the remarkably high number of false alarms. However, residents have raised some important questions, such as how other cities that have adopted verified response have fared, and I am looking very closely at this issue.

The City Council will likely vote on this issue before the end of the year, though no date has been set yet. I have heard from a lot of folks who have burglar alarms (14% of Dallas residents), but I would like to hear from those who DON’T have burglar alarms (86% of Dallas residents). What are your thoughts on verified response? Please shoot me an email.

Public Safety Committee: Verified Burglar Alarms

Today Police Chief Kunkle and Larry Davis, Chair of the Commission of Productivity and Innovation, briefed the City Council’s Public Safety Committee on a proposal to require verified responses to burglar alarms.

In 2004, the DPD received about 62,000 burglar alarm calls. Of those, 97% were false alarms (60,100). Responding to these false alarms took approximately 47,000 police officer hours, which equals about 41 full-time police officers at a cost of approximately $3.485 million in police time. This takes our officers away from responding to real crimes in our city.

The proposal is to require alarm companies to respond first to their burglar alarms, then contact the police only after verifying that an actual crime occurring. The city would still respond immediately to burglar alarms that are the result of someone pressing a panic button. Residential alarms would no longer require a permit fee. Commercial alarms would still pay a permit fee.

This verified response system has been successful in other cities across the country, including Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

I am very supportive of this proposal. We don’t have enough officers on the street, and this will free up over 41 officers.

ACTION: Committee voted to hold a public hearing on October 12 before the full City Council. Between now and then, the City will work with the alarm industry to develop a successful transition.