Can You Increase Police Response Time with Video Verification?

Posted by Jay Thomas on April 15, 2020

Do you have a burglar alarm system in your business? How many times has it gone off? Of those, how many were false alarms? Perhaps, it may be easier to flip-flop the question to this one: How many were real alarms?

A homeowner who has lived in her house for 24 years says they've had their share of false alarms. Only once did they need emergency personnel. Fortunately, the first responders have only come to the house twice. As you may have surmised, the second time turned out to be a false alarm.

The thing about false alarms is they can cost your business. First responders pay a big price when a situation turns out to be a false alarm.

Causes of False Alarms

What causes false alarms? Many things. One thing is for sure. False alarms are rarely mischievous or malicious according to a survey from the National Fire Protection Association. Fortunately, these comprise only 6 percent of all false alarms.

The bulk of false alarms come from these types of calls:

  • System malfunction
  • Unintentional call
  • Other false alarms

A system malfunction can be as simple as dust in the fire detector, low batteries or a problematic power source. Faulty equipment or an improper system installation can also be culprits. Sometimes technology just breaks. A way to remedy that is to invest in system health checks.

Many things can trigger an unintentional call, such as:

  • People not shutting the door when departing.
  • Animals and bugs.
  • People entering the wrong code.
  • Bad weather.

It's possible the alarm could be random. Sometimes the cause cannot be determined after ruling out malfunctions and errors. This is why businesses need to conduct security training every year for new and current employees. You want to ensure they stay compliant and remember the correct procedures.

The Effects of False Alarms on Cost and Police Response Time

The reality is that between 94 and 98 percent of alarms are false per research from the Arizona State University Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (COPS). The numbers aren't exact because it fluctuates by jurisdiction. The report reveals every false alarm requires roughly 20 minutes of police time. What if the police or fire personnel end up directed to a false alarm instead of one that is an actual emergency?

If first responders come to a business every single time the alarm goes off, it gets pricey. Not just for the owner, but also for the police and fire departments. GetSafe states that the International Association of Chiefs of Police reports false alarms cost police departments up to 6.5 million personnel hours and $600 million in a year.

The cost of a false alarm depends on the location of the business. In the U.S., some cities don't charge for the first false alarm. They do charge for additional alarms. The price often increases with every incident.

According to a REMI article, the average cost of a false alarm in Canada for condos and apartments is almost $1,400 per dispatch. Smaller buildings could potentially pay about $500 for each responding vehicle.

Verification can prevent paying penalties and wasting first responders' time. The way phone verification works is that whenever the alarm goes off, the security company calls the business. If they cannot reach anyone, they'll call the other numbers on the contact list.

Does it work? Take a look at Salt Lake City. A report from ASU's COPS says cities with an ordinance that require alarm companies to verify an alarm is real by a video camera or phone have seen false alarms fall by a massive 90 percent!

The change also helped a city in Utah. Verification's impact is huge.

"By significantly reducing the number of calls to which officers needed to respond, the Salt Lake City Police Department gained an equivalent of five full-time officers, decreased the workload of call-takers and dispatchers, and decreased the response time to other calls for service," Rana Sampson writes.

Sampson discloses the following three things effectively reduce false alarms:

  • Requiring verification before calling first responders.
  • Charging fees for false alarms.
  • Respond only if they come from a building via mobile personal alarms like panic buttons.

Remember the 24-year-old house at the beginning of this article? First responders showed up on two occasions. One was for a legitimate emergency. The police showed up on the second time because the residents did not respond to phone verification. Phone verification prevented emergency personnel from going to the home for all the other false alarms. (They've had at least 10 instances.)

This kind of verification can help businesses prevent false alarms. Sometimes these alarms go off after hours when no one is on-site. The security company will call the employees on the company's contact list. But they're not likely going to know whether it's a false alarm. There's a way to confirm this. Instead of burglar alarms, they use video surveillance.

How Video Verification Speeds Police Response Times

A video surveillance system is a proactive security solution. It maximizes around-the-clock security with a combination of video analytics and human intelligence. The video surveillance company programs different scenarios in the system. The system's artificial intelligence analyzes what it sees in the video. When it finds a match, it takes action. This is intelligence video analytics.

One such scenario may be the presence of people after working hours. As soon as the analytics spots what looks like a human approaching the property, it alerts the trained monitoring operator on duty. The operator looks at the video and acts based on what the video shows.

The operator may respond by issuing a warning on the two-way speaker system. It may follow with a call to the police. Sometimes, both. If the intruders disregard the audio warning, the operator can call the police while keeping tabs on the suspects. Often, the police officers arrive before the intruders get away. Thus, video surveillance can help deter crime and limit damage.

If no one watches the cameras and the system does not have advanced technology, the police department will receive a call every time something trips the cameras. Animals can do that. Flying debris can do that. Even plastic shopping bags set off the cameras.

Some video surveillance companies have a partnership with the police department. What this means is that when they call the police, their calls are given a higher priority. The police department knows the alarm is real. Besides, video verification can increase priority.

"Video verification of crimes is critical, for another important reason: traditional alarms typically receive a 'Priority 3' response from law-enforcement agencies; that is, a low priority response (which could mean no response at all)," writes Jorge Perdomo in Security Today. "Conversely, an alarm accompanied by video verification will receive a 'Priority 1' response, meaning that officers will respond much more quickly."

Analytics continuously learns from the security operator's feedback. The more feedback the technology receives, the more accurate it becomes. This pairing can reduce errors and false positives. Meaning, you essentially eliminate false alarms.

Some remote video surveillance companies can perform instantaneous virtual guard tours. If an alarm goes off at your business, a security operator can view the video in real time to determine if the alarm is false or if the local authorities need to be contacted. Not only is this a cost savings, it can help keep you safe by preventing you from entering a potentially dangerous situation.

Benefits of Remote Video Surveillance with Video Verification

Video verification via video surveillance does more than shortening police response times and reducing false alarms. Businesses can decrease property and asset loss. With video surveillance deterring crimes, businesses don't deal with the repercussions of a crime. While insurance may cover the cost of replacing stolen items, it's not fast. Many businesses can't wait. So, they spend money on replacements. This affects cash flow.

Sometimes, the business may have to shut down. In one scenario, thieves stole the air conditioning units. If a business has to switch to remote working, it's not always going to be enough to cover the cost of closing the business, especially in retail. Moreover, video surveillance can help reduce your risk of crime. Most insurance companies will shave your premiums as a reward.

Video surveillance can help enhance your security for the best return on security investment. It puts eyes on your entire property. Security guards don't have that ability. Additionally, they cost far more than video surveillance equipment plus monitoring services.

Why Chicago Credits Video Surveillance for Reducing Crime

A study from the Urban Institute reveals many cities have seen video surveillance shrink their crime rates. Chicago attributes more than a 12 percent reduction in crime to video surveillance. The number of robberies in the Windy City is down by one-third and violent crime dropped by 20 percent.

How can Chicago be so sure video surveillance is the cause of the dwindling crime rates? Urban Institute points the crime rates did not change in one area of Chicago. That's because residents thought no one monitored the video surveillance cameras. Furthermore, the neighborhood had a lower concentration of cameras compared to another neighborhood. Crime fell by 20 percent in the neighborhood with more cameras. The report goes on to claim the results "provide compelling support for Chicago's use of public surveillance cameras."

Additionally, video surveillance services do more than prevent false alarms and deter crime. Businesses depend on cameras to boost security, enhance processes, and watch the business off-hours. They help protect your company's most important assets by working to keeping employees safe while preventing theft of information and things.

To learn more about the possibilities and its ROI, check out Remote Video Surveillance: More Than Just Catching Criminals. If you'd like to discuss your requirements or meet with a security expert in your industry, please contact us.

Posted in: Crime Prevention, Video Security Systems, Video Monitoring