Los Angeles: There has been a dramatic drop in officers being called out to burglar alarm activations which turn out to be false. In 2003, before a new City Ordinance was in place, LAPD officers responded to 102,532 false alarm calls. In 2011, LAPD officers responded to 41,848 false alarm calls, representing a 59.2% decrease in nine years. With each call representing an average consumption of 45 minutes of valuable public safety resources, this decrease represents approximately 45,500 hours annually of officer and dispatcher time for more immediate public safety needs.
“We are very pleased with the consistently decreasing number of false alarm calls,” stated Richard Tefank, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Police Commission, where the Alarm Section for the LAPD is housed. “This has resulted in a significant savings of time officers spend responding to false alarms, which leaves them available to respond in a more timely manner to other calls for service.”
How was this success achieved? In 2009, “CryWolf” was installed. “CryWolf” is a computer tracking system which integrates all City functions related to burglar alarms including permits, dispatch of calls for service, and tracking of those calls through the billing process. “CryWolf” even allows the alarm subscriber the opportunity to attend virtual Alarm School on the internet to have one false alarm fee waived per 365-day period. The “CryWolf” system fully enabled the goal of the Los Angeles City Ordinance change of 2004, which was to reduce false alarms in the City.
The success of false alarms reduction can be seen in the attached table. Not only are the number of actual alarm incidents down, but the percentage of those calls being false alarms is down as well.
In the City of Los Angeles, all alarm subscribers are required to maintain an Alarm Permit. The Los Angeles City Ordinance allows alarm subscribers two unverified alarm calls per 365-day period, however all responses to false alarm calls by officers are billed to the alarm subscriber. There are no “free” responses to a false alarm. Upon the third alarm call after two false alarms, verification will be required before a patrol unit is dispatched. Absent verification, the alarm call will be subject to “broadcast and file,” which means the 911 operator will broadcast the call and officers will respond, if available. The cost of an alarm permit and the fees associated with false alarms are analyzed each year to recover the actual cost to the City of Los Angeles to provide this service.
Questions regarding the responsibilities of maintaining an alarm system in the City of Los Angeles may be directed to the Los Angeles Police Commission, Alarm Section, at 213-996-1200. Additional information may also be found on LAPDOnline.org.