Detroit Alters Alarm Response Policy

The Detroit police department announced recently that it will no longer respond to most burglar alarms in the city.  The new "verification" policy, implemented with little notice and no public discussion, creates a dilemma for many Detroit home owners and businesses that rely on monitored alarm services because it provides little opportunity to prepare for the change.  

A concern is also raised in that the criminal community will know police will not respond to homes and businesses protected by alarm systems.  

"Our industry has been working closely with the police department to develop and implement an alarm ordinance that would incorporate best nationwide practices for managing alarms, reducing false dispatches and retaining police response to help protect citizens," said Dean Belisle, president of the Burglar and Fire Alarm Association of Michigan.  "The  unexpected policy change announced today includes provisions that most public safety officials believe puts citizens in danger, such as having home and business owners respond first to alarm system activations to determine if a crime has been committed.  Such a policy encourages citizens to place themselves at risk and in harm's way by confronting crimes in progress when responding to alarms."

Under the new policy, police department will not respond to alarm calls from monitoring companies unless:

  • The alarm company sends someone to the premises to visually verify a crime has been committed.
  • A property owner or employee responds to the location to visually verify a crime has been committed.
  • The occurrence of a break-in or crime is verified through the use of audio or video technology.
  • The alarm company reports multiple alarm trips from at least two sensors at the alarm site (i.e., a first alarm from a point of entry contact such as a door or window, followed by a second alarm from an interior point of protection, such as a motion detector.)

"The industry is sensitive to the numerous challenges facing the City of Detroit, which is why we have worked to maintain a cooperative relationship with the police department.  We have demonstrated alternative approaches, successfully deployed in other cities, that generate revenue, reduce false police dispatches and encourage proper use of alarm systems, which are a proven crime prevention tool.  It is in light of these efforts that the new policies, announced with little advance notice, came as a complete surprise to our industry," Belisle said.  

Additionally, citizens were given no choice or opportunity to voice their opinions on the loss of this core service provided by police.

It is particularly troublesome that the change in police alarm response policy came on such short notice.  A significant percentage of Detroit's population relies on monitored alarm services.  It will take weeks, if not longer, for affected home owners and businesses to become aware of the change in policy and for them to make arrangements to engage private alarm responders or to upgrade or supplement existing alarm systems to include video or audio verification capability.  It will be during this transition that homes and businesses will be most vulnerable as the criminal community takes notice that police are not responding to alarms.  

Finally, there are many disadvantaged families, senior citizens, charities and those on fixed incomes that cannot afford private response or alarm system upgrades leaving them no options.

"The citizens of Detroit have been taken by surprise by the sudden announcement of this new policy," Belisle said. "And it doesn't have to be like this.  There are viable, proven alternatives that can benefit both the city, and its residents and businesses.  We call on Mayor Dave Bing to put a hold on this policy and order the police administration to work with alarm industry experts and citizens to develop a policy that will help protect the citizens of Detroit and encourage additional economic development.”

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