Originally Published: July 20, 2017 6:02 a.m.
Prescott Valley Police Chief Bryan Jarrell urged everyone to consider the motives of those on both sides of the alarm ordinances argument at a town hall meeting on Tuesday, July 18.
“I’m responsible for the protection of every single resident and visitor that comes into this town. With limited resources, I cannot in good conscience continue a practice that has been flawed since its inception,” Jarrell said, speaking of the current protocol in place, which saw officers responding to false alarms 99.2 percent of the time. “The motives of the alarm industry are not the altruistic goal of keeping people safe, it’s to continue the moneymaking enterprise.”
The meeting was nearly a month after Jarrell went before the Prescott Valley Town Council to propose instituting a verified response protocol. The proposal drew the attention of the Arizona Alarm Association, which is urging the council to adopt a model alarm ordinance.
The alarm industry wants Prescott Valley to adopt ordinances that include things like the police department accepting response cancellations and alarm user training classes, Jarrell said, noting that the Prescott Valley Police Department already does both of those.
“They want fines, escalating and meaningful for chronic abusers. Now we have fines, but our council has been against the concept of escalating fines and punishing the residents in the community and I agree with that. We’re trying to address this false paradigm in completely the wrong way and continually punishing people financially is something I don’t advocate,” he said. “‘Notification to user of all dispatches,’ that means they want us to notify the alarm owner every time that we’re dispatched. That’s already in place. They want to require enhanced call confirmation by the alarm company, we already do that … They want to require registration and alarm permits, we do that. They want strict enforcement of the alarm ordinance, we do that.”
The industry also wants to restrict or eliminate response to chronic abusers and even in the best case scenarios, officers would have gone out on more than 400 calls last year, Jarrell said, having previously mentioned the 772 burglar alarms the department responded to last year, of which 766 were false alarms.
Having tried a variation of all the above measures and having tried the model ordinances, Jarrell said they don’t work to the degree that the department wants them to. In fact, the steps taken before the police department is dispatched, it increases the chance of the alarm being false and potentially punishing the user instead of decreasing the department’s response, he said.
The alarm industry says that they want to have 33 percent of homes and businesses to own an alarm by 2020 and are creating a disparate situation where 70 percent of homes and businesses don’t receive the same level of service and attention their customers receive, Jarrell said.
“More than 99 percent of them are false and they still want us to provide a special service to them. Every citizen of this town pays for police services, including having us respond to a call for service that’s false 99.2 percent of the time,” Jarrell said. “I would prefer not to waste the time of my officers chasing spurious calls for service and let them patrol and protect the entire community.”
By going out on a response, the police department is putting cars in neighborhoods that wouldn’t otherwise be there, said Maria Malice, former president of the Arizona Alarm Association. It may be for a false alarm, but she never sees any other officer in her neighborhood unless there’s been an event, Malice said, remarking she’s not from Prescott Valley.
“You’re actually increasing your visibility out there and it’s not a service that’s special to them. They’re being fined for it, so actually paying for that service,” she said. “In paying the alarm company, what they’re paying for is monitoring and not police response.”
Alarm association employees are paid to say an alarm went off, call and see what can be done so the police don’t go if they aren’t needed, Malice said. That’s what the monitoring is paying for, she said.
Jarrell said he doesn’t agree as the reason he’s there is because of a false alarm and if only 30 percent of homes or businesses actually have that privilege, she’s asking for the department to have an officer in that neighborhood to provide the special service while that officer could have been on the other side of town in a neighborhood that the department knows is having problems. Instead, that officer has to drive across town to check an alarm that most of the time is going to be false, Jarrell said.
“I don’t know how you would classify that any other way than a waste of time,” he said. “You talk about these ordinances that drive down these increased fines and enhanced call verification. What you’re doing is you’re putting steps in place that would delay our response.”
Arizona Alarm Association President Julia Young wrote a letter to the Prescott Valley Town Council in which she wrote that 13 police agencies in the United States have adopted some form of verified response and during the meeting, Association Executive Director Susan Brenton said cities that have adopted and overturned verified response include Dallas, Modesto, which adopted it and saw a 26 percent increase in burglary and Madison, which adopted in in 2007 and repealed it the same year after a 26.6 percent increase in burglary.
After doing its own research, PVPD found that there were 37 agencies in the country using some form of verified response, including some that the alarm association claimed had no longer done it, Jarrell said, commenting that the Dallas situation was pure politics. Further, Jarrell said he’d like to see research showing verified response was the direct result of the increases in burglary.
As elected officials, the town council’s first responsibility of that is the safety of all the citizens of Prescott Valley, said Vice Mayor Lora Lee Nye. That wasn’t true of the alarm association, Nye said.
“You’re here because you’re concerned about your bottom line,” she said, remarking she doesn’t want one incident to happen where officers on a false alarm were taken away from an incident actually occurring. Nothing could be said to make her think otherwise, Nye said. “I’ve been inundated by your emails, I’m annoyed that you’re primarily concerned about yourselves and your industry. I don’t have that luxury.”
From verified response, people can expect that alarm users will receive the response they deserve when there is a criminal act in their home or business as every alarm the department receives is a potential in-progress crime, Jarrell said. Also, the community will recover one police officer because when given the available time, officers use it to prevent crime, solve problems and improve the safety of roadways, he said. Further, the alarm industry will have the opportunity to provide better service to their customers, Jarrell said.
“The alarm industry has not kept pace with technology as homeowners. The technology is here now for you to have a security system that will let you know if there is an event at your home, not a third-party middleman that is going to delay notification to the police,” he said.