Alarms Section: History and Problems
Intrusion or burglar alarms have been in existence for over 50 years. Originally, most alarm companies provided armed response by private security personnel. Under this process, the cost was covered by the alarm users. Over the years, most alarm companies eliminated response by security personnel and transferred responsibility to local police agencies. This created a situation in which alarm users received a special service at the cost to the general taxpayer. Because of the dramatic growth in alarm installations and false alarms, the cost to provide this service can no longer be ignored.
As recently as 1995, the City recognized the increasing rate of false alarms and its negative affect on City finances and police resources. To address the issue, the City reduced the number of "free" false alarms, required alarm companies to call their clients before requesting dispatch, and established alarm school to educate owners on false alarm reduction strategies.
In 2003, the City Council created the Burglar Alarm Task Force, which included representatives from the alarm industry, Neighborhood Councils, Community Police Advisory Boards, citizens and appropriate City Departments. The Task Force held public hearings over an eight-week period and produced thirty-one recommendations, such as eliminating "free" false alarms, imposing escalating penalties for multiple false alarms, strengthening the alarm permit requirement, and acquiring updated technology.
In 2004, the LAPD implemented a revised Burglar Alarm Dispatch Policy to make optimum use of limited public safety resources. Under the revised policy, each alarmed location within the City will be afforded two false alarm activations within a rolling year (e.g. a 365-day period starting with each false alarm activation) without a change from the current dispatch procedure. However, after two false alarm activations occur, verification will be required in order to dispatch the call to a patrol unit. A verified burglar alarm will be dispatched as a high priority call. In cases where verification cannot be obtained, the call will be broadcast over the police radio frequency, allowing patrol units to voluntarily respond if available.
In late 2004, the City revised the Alarm Ordinance (Los Angeles Municipal Code, Section 103.206) to strengthen the language requiring alarm permits, establish an escalating penalty schedule for multiple false alarms, and require additional information at the time of dispatch to improve Department response and compliance with City law. Please be aware that failure to abide by the City’s Alarm Ordinance shall constitute a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or a year in County jail or both.
Each year LAPD responds to more than 100,000 privately installed burglar alarm calls, of which 97% are determined to be false alarms. These calls place an additional burden on an understaffed LAPD and on civilian dispatchers at the LAPD Communications Division, where all calls for service are received and dispatched. While the revised two-alarm dispatch policy has resulted in a 25% decrease in alarm calls handled by patrol units, these calls continue to comprise more than 10% of all the calls for police service received by the LAPD.
Every alarm subscriber, residential and business, can do his or her share to reduce the incidence of false alarms and help preserve police resources. This website contains valuable information that will educate alarm users, identify methods to decrease false alarms, and provide important tips on your rights and responsibilities as a permitted alarm user in the City of Los Angeles.