Study Probes Verified Response Burglar Alarm Effectiveness

 

June 28, 2006 - A staggering 94% to 98% of all alarm activations that police respond to are false, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. A new study explores how police departments are combating this problem by only responding to burglar alarms that have first been verified electronically or by eyewitness. The study shows that the police were able to reduce their dispatch rate by an average of 72 percent, freeing officers' time for higher priority duties. At the same time, the report shows that burglary rates declined in the majority of the jurisdictions with this policy in place for over one year.

The independent study, commissioned by Sonitrol Corporation, a provider of verified electronic security solutions, is titled "Verified Response: Lessons Learned - A Survey of 20 Police Departments across North America with Verified Response Policies." It offers one of the most extensive studies to date of Verified Response, an increasingly popular policy whereby police will respond to an alarm only if it can first be verified through audio, video or by an eyewitness. The survey of 20 departments in the U.S. and Canada that have had Verified Response policies in place for more than a year explores rationales for adopting such policies, as well as the resulting impact on false alarms, police dispatch, crime and apprehension rates.

"Despite assertions that Verified Response would lead to an automatic increase in burglary rates, this research finds these concerns to be largely unfounded," said Sonitrol President Alex Gellman. "This paper shows that Verified Response is a reasonable and legitimate approach for cities looking to combat the false alarm epidemic. Sonitrol supports Verified Response because the status quo of a 98% false alarm rate is unacceptable and wastes police resources. It is also significant that 75% of the police departments interviewed now include electronic verification in their policies. We believe the inclusion of audio and video surveillance in Verified Response is critical for an optimal solution."

The study's key findings include:

  • After Verified Response was in place, Police Dispatch rates were reduced an average of 72%
  • 69% of the 16 jurisdictions providing specific data show the burglary rate declined, while 31% increased, following adoption of Verified Response
  • Many indicated that they have been able to free officers' time to pursue higher priority duties and respond more quickly to verified burglaries
  • 75% of the 20 police departments surveyed will respond to monitored audio and/or video alarms
  • 100% of the 20 respondents believe Verified Response was and still is the right solution
  • In all instances, initial public concern quickly dissipated through public education

The research was commissioned at a time when police departments are being increasingly challenged by the need to respond to all burglar alarms even though, as previously noted, 94% to 98% of all alarm activations are false. Additionally, in a post 9/11 world, many departments have been forced to take on additional law enforcement duties and increased Homeland Security responsibilities, despite budget cuts. As a result, some 30 departments in North America have successfully implemented Verified Response to reduce the amount of time wasted responding to false alarms, allowing them to re-deploy police officers to higher priority calls.