False Alarm Reduction Program FAQ
What is considered a "false alarm"?
A false alarm is an alarm that was not triggered by a criminal event. Alarms triggered by faulty equipment, human error, or pets are considered false.
Are false alarms really that big a problem?
In 2016 the Owasso Police Department responded to over 1800 alarm calls. This represented over 11% of all reactive calls for service and took up vital resources which could have been utilized on other emergencies. 99% of those alarm calls were false alarms caused by faulty equipment, human error, pets, guests in a home, etc. The Department of Justice studied the scope of this problem on a national level:
"In the United States in 2002, police responded to approximately 36 million alarm activations, at an estimated annual cost of $1.8 billion."
"For many U.S. police agencies, false burglar alarms constitute the highest-volume type of call for service."
"...solving the problem of false alarms would, by itself, relieve 35,000 officers from providing an essentially private service."
What are my responsibilities as an alarm user under the new city ordinance?
In addition to annual registration, alarm users have a few responsibilities to help prevent false alarms.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF POLICE ALARM USER
Every Alarm User shall:
1. Inspect, maintain, and repair a Police Alarm Device to ensure its proper operation.
2. Educate and train all employees and other persons who may in the course of their activities be in a position to accidentally activate a Police Alarm Device.
3. Assure that a responsible person responds to every activation of a Police Alarm Device within twenty minutes after being requested to respond by the City’s police communications center.
4. Ensure that their Alarm Provider attempts to verify any Intrusion Alarm with the Alarm User prior to making an Alarm Dispatch Request to the Police Department. The Alarm User shall provide their Alarm Provider with at least two contact telephone numbers for verification.
(The last point is very important. Make sure your alarm company understands so that you aren’t charged a false alarm fee that you could have avoided.)
Will this program really reduce false alarms or is it just a way to raise revenue for the city?
Owasso Police staff conducted considerable research into how to reduce false alarms. We have modeled the best practice of alarm registrations from around the country. Other cities have seen considerable reductions in alarms using the model we have enacted. The money being generated from the program is being used to pay for management of the alarm registration process and, to a lesser degree, offset some of the costs of responding to alarms. We do not anticipate any profit from this program. It is estimated that responding to false alarms costs over $50,000 in taxpayer dollars each year.
I pay taxes already, why do I have to pay an alarm registration fee on top of what I already pay?
Owasso taxpayers are spending over $50,000 per year for officers to respond to false alarms. Not everyone has an alarm, so those individuals are subsidizing those who do. In addition, officers are often helping other citizens and have to leave those calls to respond to a false alarm. The customer who was left behind did not get the service that they expected in order for an officer to respond to what basically amounts to a false call for service. Alarm companies are essentially selling police services for a profit. When a private alarm company sells an alarm system for profit they are selling the fact that the local police will respond. This is an extra service that a citizen is requesting and we believe it is right for the citizen who is requesting this extra service help offset the cost.
Why am I just now hearing about this, now?
While registration enrollment opens on October 1st, 2017, the program does not actually take effect until December 1st , 2017. Residents and businesses have all of October and November to register their alarms before any penalty would be imposed. Therefore, there are more 60 days to plan any changes or accounting concerns. Additionally, in the months leading up to the approval of the program earlier this year, there were public meetings held to discuss the proposed implementation and multiple stories released announcing the program. Owasso Reporter Story May 11, 2017
Will the information I submit on the registration be safe from hackers?
We are not requesting any sensitive data that would normally be the target of identity theft. This information is the same information held on the computers of your alarm company only it is current, can be updated by you, and is immediately available to first responders when they investigate an alarm at your home or business.
My alarm company is supposed to contact me before dispatching police to my alarm if they fail to do so will I still be charged?
It is important that alarm owners communicate with their alarm companies to reduce this type of concern. If the alarm company does not follow your request and a fee is assessed, you would have a strong argument for requesting reimbursement for that fee from your alarm company.