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LJWorld.com weblogs Police Scanner action in Lawrence Kansas

Police Scanner Action- False Burglary Alarms

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While listening to my scanner and hearing the "goings-ons" in Lawrence, Kansas, I have noticed a pesky little problem; false burglary alarms. Some days, it seems like there are at least 30 calls, all of which are false. I don't have the actual numbers from the Douglas County dispatch, I am just guessing. It is enough calls to be noticed and has made me wonder- what is the deal?

A little research has made me aware this is a major problem across the country. False alarms account for 10-25% of all police calls- and some statictics say only 1-3% of these alarms show any evidence of criminal activity. This is a HUGE waste of resources! In 1998 it was estimated that, in Chicago alone, the cost of responding to these alarms was equal to the cost of 198 full-time officers that year, For such a high-crime area, this is simply unacceptable.

Different cities have tried different approaches- some offer a certain amout of "free" call responses a year. Some cities require a certification and registration of your alarm system- to make sure you are using it responsibly- and will not answer your alarm if you are not registered. Some cities fine you if there is more than 1-3 calls a year.

These alarm companies have different ways of operating- some will try to contact the responsible party first. All to often though, it is the police who respond, sometimes during extremely busy times, when there is a lot of real criminal activity. This is not only wasteful, but puts the public at risk due to understaffing. Often times two units respond to these calls.

I am unsure what the answer is, but I am really curious to see what others think. This is costing billions of dollars in wasted resources. We just can't afford this anymore

Comments

Chelsea Kapfer 3 years, 3 months ago

I am still waiting to hear back from Matt Sarna regarding actual numbers for how many false alarms are responded too in Douglas County.

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Chelsea Kapfer 3 years, 3 months ago

I have some e-mails out, and I am looking for answers to these problems. I think, since it's the holiday weekend I may not get any answers until Monday. I will keep searching, however. Tune into www.lawrencepolicescanner.blogspot.com and I am going to blog every false alarm I hear. I haven't been doing that, because it's kind of boring, but I am going to start, because i think we need to know the extent of this problem. Wonder what's going to happen tonight?

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Cait McKnelly 3 years, 3 months ago

We live literally just yards away from what used to be Whelan's (can't recall the name of the business now) Construction Supply. I cannot begin to tell you how many times we have been woken up by their burglar alarm. Frequently it's because we have had a minor interruption in electric service, just long enough to make every tech device in the house connected to the grid reboot. In all of the time we have lived here (12 years) and all of the times that alarm has gone off I doubt very seriously there was ever a burglary or other problem connected to it more than once or twice. I actually suspect that at one point the neighborhood hooligans got their jollies by making it go off. I haven't heard it go off as frequently, lately, so it's possible the business has upgraded their alarm. I do have to say that the next time I choose a place to live, proximity to a business will be a major consideration.

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damnitimpissed 3 years, 3 months ago

(i haven't done any research on this, but...) How about an independent group that figures the ratio of false alarms to real ones for each security company? Consumers and law enforcement could then avoid the companies with the worst ratio. The way it is now, it seems companies have little incentive to innovate any solution other than prompting the highest number of alarms possible, real or not.

Sorry if this is a stupid question, but why does law enforcement have to have a private contract with these companies?

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Chelsea Kapfer 3 years, 3 months ago

Between 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m this morning there were 6 false alarms.

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Chelsea Kapfer 3 years, 3 months ago

I was thinking- what if the security companies had to hire their own security officers to verify a criminal act before calling the police?

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xr650rsource 3 years, 3 months ago

So Lawrence PD is paying, let's say, Protection 1?

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xr650rsource 3 years, 3 months ago

It's a tough problem to deal with. I think about it a lot.

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Popeye 3 years, 3 months ago

The Lawrence stats is a snapshot of the national problem/disgrace. Over 50,000 full time police first responders, and all support resources, are required to “subsidize” the private alarm industry…. 10-25% of all patrol response… and nearly all the calls are unnecessary/false. Most police departments solve the problem by lowering the priority of calls from monitoring firms to barking dog status, very slow non-emergency. Most alarm customers are unaware of the low/slow status. The alarm industry does not want to stop false alarms because lots of police response adds value to their private contracts. Cost recovery via fines & fees is never a good substitute. For every $1 of police cost recovery, the alarm industry earns about $100. It is really sad to hear of police lay-offs while still supporting private contracts.

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xr650rsource 3 years, 3 months ago

Well, I heard 5 false alarms tonight in just a few hours. I think I can safely say that there are 10 per day.

Dispatch is who to ask about this. I have already talked to an officer tonight and he basically replied, "oh man, lots of false alarms. It's a problem. Business with garage doors is a popular one. Sensors get bumped a lot."

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Chelsea Kapfer 3 years, 3 months ago

These are some Stats for Seattle, can't find any for Douglas County, yet.

Households with security alarms: 17.5 percent

Businesses: 14.3 percent

Alarms police responded to last year: 29,612

Number proven to be false: 28,757

Officer time spent responding to alarms: 13,622 hours

Average per alarm: 26.7 minutes

Cost to department: $1,280,852

Recovered in false-alarm fines: $277,562*

Total 2000 deficit: $1,003,290

*Amount recovered by department.

Source: Seattle Police Department

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Chelsea Kapfer 3 years, 3 months ago

I have just e-mailed a few people, and I will make some phone calls tomorrow, because I want actual statistics now...your questions are good and i want exact answers. I am curious about fire false alarms as well. Fire calls are, I imagine, way more expensive due to the increased number of personnel it takes to respond. Stay tuned, I will dig up some hard facts for your enquiring mind! ;)

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Dispersant 3 years, 3 months ago

Are these calls coming from only those with alarm systems? I would guess maybe half (or maybe even less) of these people calling in have alarm systems. It seems to me that it's a lot of older ladies hearing the wind blow a shutter closed and they freak out and call 911. (over and over)

You should be allowed more than one call a year, however. Maybe after the 2nd or 3rd time you can start charging fees....

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Chelsea Kapfer 3 years, 3 months ago

I think the real problems are loose doors, windows, and motion detected through windows. I think any property with an alarm should have a yearly inspection for false alarm problems. I have personally fixed these problems for people before, repairing steel doors, and loose magnets. Let's say if you don't keep the "false alarm inspection" to date, and your alarm goes off, you get fined $150?

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babs52 3 years, 3 months ago

As the manager at our office, I am contacted by the security company and asked to meet the officer when an alarm is activated. As the office is in a business park and no one around late at night, I would not feel comfortable investigating on my own.
You bring up some good points. I think it's reasonable to ask a business to pay after a certain number of reports.
You are correct - thunderstorms are a problem but interestingly, the alarm at our office went off last week when you reported a high number of calls. Wonder if there was really a problem with the security company's alarms?

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Chelsea Kapfer 3 years, 3 months ago

I think that some days, 30 is about accurate, for a 24 hour period. Especially if there are high winds causing door to rattle. I got this estimate from reading several articles and averaging low and high estimates. Seattle charges $95 dollars a call, for calls over 1 time in a 364 day period. Chicago has a similar system. When you think of the time spent for the dispatch to take the call, two officers to respond to the call, the equipment necessary to make all this happen- it seems like a pretty realistic estimate, I think. What do you think?

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DillonBarnes 3 years, 3 months ago

As a pretty regular listener of the police scanner, I find the "about 30" or "seems like 30 calls" to be a pretty high estimate. Does it happen, sure, but not 30 times a day.

Where did you get your estimate of $150-200? You just threw it out there and I'm really curious where that came from.

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xr650rsource 3 years, 3 months ago

I could see this in front of City Hall soon. With all these budget cuts, this is one item to look at first.

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xr650rsource 3 years, 3 months ago

How much does a false alarm cost? We have estimated this at around $150-$200. Any ideas out there?

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xr650rsource 3 years, 3 months ago

We posted this on FB today to try to get more input about this. We tracked almost 30 calls the other day of false burglary alarms. These calls are expensive. This should be looked at seriously.

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kernal 3 years, 3 months ago

Chelsea, seems to me this is a question that should be put to the alarm system providers, but I seriously doubt any of them will respond to this since the problem probably lies with their equipment or the installation of it.

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Chelsea Kapfer 3 years, 3 months ago

This is a serious problem. I spoke with a police officer last night about this. If City Hall is ready to trim some fat off the expenses of Fire, Police and EMS, find a way to cut down the false alarms. How much does it cost to send an officer, for 30-40 min on a false alarm call? I've tossed this question around to a number of people and came up with a guesstimate of about $200. We heard about 30 calls in one day on the police scanner, also you can see them listed at the Lawernce Police Scanner website. Something really needs to be done about this soon. I was told Olathe Police will start charging you about $150 after the 3rd or 4th time it happens.

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