According to ADT Security Services, about 20 percent of U.S. homes now have some kind of home security/alarm system and that number is projected to grow in the years ahead, as this technology becomes more affordable.
These systems can be a useful tool to help keep one’s property safe and secure. Although responding to alarms is not a core function of the U.P. Police Department, we recognize that it is a service that most U.P. residents and business owners want.
Alarm calls are incidents in which an alarm system triggers a call to 911 indicating unlawful entry into a structure. This does not include calls from homeowners who are at home when their alarms are triggered and call 911. Those calls, and other similar calls, have an element of human discernment which gives more credibility to the potential for criminal activity. False alarms are when the system alone is used to alert police and it is found that the alarm was triggered due to user or system error.
Within the City of University Place, there are currently close to 4,000 alarm permits, but nearly all of our alarm calls are false. In fact, we respond to 400 false alarms annually. This is a significant waste of police resources since these calls take officers away from handling other duties. We examined an 18-month time period for alarm calls and found 624 total alarms in U.P. Only six of those calls resulted in the officers finding evidence of criminal activity.
The existing alarm permit program in U.P. had not been updated since its inception more than two decades ago. Since the tracking software system had to be replaced at this point as well, we decided the time was right to make updates to the entire program.
As a result, permits will now require annual online renewal of $40. Renewal notices will be sent to existing permit holders to ensure that alarm owner information is updated and to remind owners to check their systems. The fee to respond will be $100 and there will also be no free response. It should be noted, however, that our fees are in-line with other local jurisdictions and can be appealed. All fees collected from the program go back into our Public Safety Fund.
I hope U.P. residents will see the value in having a comprehensive alarm permit program. Our goal is to work with homeowners and businesses to reduce the number of false alarms so that we can make the best use of our limited personnel resources.