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Government and Politics

Akron police want security alarm verification before officers respond
High rate of false alarms means APD won't send officers in most cases; new policy takes effect April 1

Mark Urycki
APD says they can't afford to pull officers from important calls to chase down false alarms. The industry wants a compromise.
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At the end of this month Akron Police may not respond when a security alarm sends an alert. The police are starting a new policy that requires a verification of a crime before they show up. Security companies say that standard is too strict and may be dangerous.
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Akron’s Police Chief James Nice says his department responded to 10,000 alarm calls last year and 98.5 percent them were false alarms. So beginning April 1st Akron will require the property owner or their security company to confirm a real problem exists before officers rush to the scene. The city of Columbus, facing a 99 percent  alarm rate, is considering a similar move.  But David Margulies, a spokesman for the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, proposes a plan they call the “model ordinance,” a more voluntary system where companies attempt to verify a problem by making 2 phone calls to the owner but police must still respond unless told not to.     

“The model ordinance will get the Akron police exactly what they want – a dramatic decrease in false alarms. But it still guarantees if an alarm goes off the police will respond.” 

The industry proposal also requires property owners to pay fines for repeated false alarms. Akron Police Capt. Paul Calvaruso says Akron already levies fines but the charges don’t make up for the unnecessary responses by officers.

“The fines only offset a certain percentage of that, and it doesn’t behoove us to use our resources in such an inefficient way where you respond to a call you know is 98.5 percent false. So we wanted to get to the root of the problem and try to eliminate those false alarms rather than just charge people as a deterrent.”

Akron police will still respond to alarms if a manual alarm such as a panic button is pushed. They also will respond when two alarms, such as a perimeter alarm and an interior alarm or both tripped. Trusted video or audio feeds from the alarm site will be considered as verification. Calvaruso says the APD supports burglar alarms and believes they can be valuable protection particularly the latest models that can provide extra verification. He says most false alarms are caused by human error.

Akron does charge alarm owners a license fee but Capt. Calvaruso says the mayor has suspended the fee for one year while the new policy is evaluated. 

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