San Jose police to stop responding to some alarms

December 27, 2011 6:32:41 PM PST
San Jose police say 98 percent of the alarm calls in San Jose are false alarms. So starting Jan. 1, unless someone confirms a problem, police will not automatically respond to those alarms.

Sandy Pollock co-owns a Willow Glen business that relies on a security system. She is OK with the change.

"It's a judgment call; it's like when you go into the ER and there's a triage nurse trying to decide who needs to be seen first and that's exactly what the police have to do," Pollock said.

Police say they are simply wasting too much time and money on false alarms. The department reports last year it responded to 12,450 alarm calls and of those, there were only two arrests and less than 1 percent of the alarm calls even resulted in a police report.

They are adopting what's called a "verified response."

"If they have some indication that the suspect is there, or even if the suspect is gone, but we believe that someone had burglarized the house or forced entry, we are going to go out to those," San Jose Police Sgt. Jason Dwyer said. "We are also going to go out to all bank alarms, firearms dealers."

The alarm industry is sounding its own alarm, saying the verified response policy is flawed and will result in home and business owners investigating alarm calls themselves.

"They are not trained, they may not be armed; it's very dangerous to have untrained people respond to alarms and that's what happens in a great majority of cases," Security Industry Alarm Coalition spokesperson David Margulies said.

San Jose now has 1,100 officers responsible for a city of more than one million people. City leaders say the new policy will allow police to focus on high priority calls and perhaps even reduce those response times.

"I am disappointed that this is yet another service we are reducing in the city of San Jose, but it comes down to making those hard decisions of what can the city do given the resources we have," San Jose City Councilmember Pete Constant said.

The alarm industry says the city has other options, such as adopting an alarm ordinance which would have people registering their alarms, paying an extra fee and even paying for false alarms.

The police department and the city say they will review how the verified response system works and make changes if necessary.

The department reports last year it spent $662,000 responding to false alarms.

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