False Alarm: Akron Police to Verify Breakin Before Response

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AKRON--Akron Police Chief James Nice says his officers respond to over 10,000 alarm calls every year, most of which are false alarms.

"More than 98% are false alarms; actually more than 99% are false alarms," said Nice, who adds the department usually dispatches two cars to each alarm call accounting for over 22,000 Akron vehicles just to cover false alarms.

"Whether it's motion sensors or leaves or wind or different things, it's a nationwide problem," said Nice.

But soon, Akron officers will only be responding to calls where an alarm company can verify a breakin.

"We are only going to respond if there is a reason to respond, and that would mean that it's verified through the alarm company-- sees a broken window, an open door, somebody in the house via camera, motion detectors inside the house," said Nice, explaining, "We need a reason to know that it is not a false alarm."

The city has been crafting its new policy with the help of Jeff Sutherland, a Canton native, who now works as a consultant with a security company based in Las Vegas.

Sutherland says his company realized police departements are overwhelmed with false alarms, so they started using private security to verify a breakin before notifying police.

He knows many security companys market their alarms by telling customers they can verify that an actual burglary has taken place, then notify police.

But Sutherland says there have been a number of assumptions on behalf of customers about "promptness" that do not take into account the workload.

"You look at the number of calls for service that are tied up because of it and the fact that there is a better solution with again verified response in terms of cameras, audio and private security, the argument kind of disappears at that point," said Sutherland.

In fact, Chief Nice says the new policy could create additional opportunity for security companies.

"That's not my intent at all," said Nice, "But it creates an opportunity for alarm companies to sell more recent technology. For me, it's a matter of, I've got a certain amount of resources with the police department and I want to put them where they are most effective for safety in Akron and 22,000 cars responding to false alarms is not efficient. It's just not good for taxpayer money."

Chief Nice says the new policy should not seem like an invitation for burglars who might assume alarms are going to be ignored, even if a home does not have the most recent alarm technology.

"What generally happens is neighbors see someone breaking in a house and call and we catch burglars regularly from neighbors seeing someone breaking in a door," said Nice, concluding, "So if a burglar is going to break a door, break a window and an audible alarm goes off, I think they would be foolish to stay in that house."

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