A trade association representing the security industry pledged to challenge the Detroit Police Department's new policy requiring verification of the break-in before officers respond to a burglar alarm.

Chief Ralph Godbee Jr., on Monday, said false alarms have been a tremendous drain on his department's resources. He said 98 percent of burglar alarms are false.

"We were caught completely by surprise," Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) Executive Director Stan Martin tells Security Sales & Integration. "We were working with the folks at the highest levels in the department and they gave us no indication that they were moving in this direction."

A departmental review showed that false alarms had the greatest financial and staffing impact on the department, according to a Detroit PD press release. As a result, the department will not respond to calls from alarm companies unless:

  • The alarm company sends someone to visually verify a crime has been committed.
  • A property owner or employee responds to the location to visually verify a break-in.
  • The occurrence of a break-in or crime is verified through use of audio or video technology.
  • The alarm company reports multiple alarm trips from at least two sensors at the alarm site (such as a first alarm from a point of entry such as a door or window, followed by a second alarm from an interior device, such as a motion detector).

The Burglar and Fire Alarm Association of Michigan (BFAAM) and SIAC officials have been attempting to convince the department to delay or stop implementation of the policy. Dean Belisle, president of BFAAM, says he has worked closely with Commander Todd Bettison on other false alarm issues for nearly a year.

"A minimum of 30 days is what's needed to make the transition," Martin says. "Sixty days would be more reasonable, particularly if people decide they want upgrades. Of course, we also happen to believe that there is going to be a large portion of folks in Detroit that are already financially stressed and won't have the resources to either change their system or pay for private security."

Belisle says he thinks it will take roughly six to 12 months to fully comply with the transition.

"We don't know how many alarms are out there," he says. "So let's say a company like ADT, the biggest player in the industry, hypothetically has 30,000 clients in Detroit. The question is how long will it take to go and visit 30,000 sites to spend with the client, review the current system, explain to them what their options are, and get it installed? No company has the manpower to do that."

In an attempt to persuade the department to delay the policy implementation, BFAAM is asking its member companies and their clients in the Detroit area to participate in a letter writing campaign to the mayor's offices and city council. Since BFAAM and SIAC have collaborated successfully in the past with the Detroit PD - namely by implementing enhanced call verification (ECV) in 2010, reducing false alarms by nearly 35 percent - the organizations are striving to maintain good relations with police officials. However, Belisle notes that the recent policy hinders that partnership.

The Detroit PD maintains that the concerns by the alarm industry and citizens that crimes would increase because of the policy are unwarranted. "Data from cities requiring a verified response before dispatching officers shows no clear trend for an increase in burglaries after implementation," according to a statement released by the department.

Additionally, the police officers will continue to respond to human activated alarms, including hold-up, panic, or duress.

By Ashley Willis

Related: Detroit Police Require Alarm Verification for Burglary Response