False alarms are a public safety issue!
During 2017, the Police Department responded to 4,555 alarm calls (2,790 commercial, and 1,765 residential). Studies across the nation have estimated that about 98% of alarm calls received by communications centers are false alarms. Oxnard’s alarm call rates bear this out. In 2017, 97.23% of commercial alarms and residential alarms were false alarms, and 1.69% were caused by uncontrollable events such as weather. During this same year, only 77 alarm calls were “true” (“actual”) alarms in which a crime occurred or a report resulted.
Given the high percentage of false alarms, it is clear that the Police Department’s response to false alarms, and the time spent investigating these calls is an inefficient use of resources and time. At any given time of the day, these calls compete with other calls for service.
What is a False Alarm?
Oxnard’s Alarm Ordinance, Section 11-63 (Q) defines a false alarm as:
“An alarm to which responding personnel, having investigated the alarm site, find no evidence of a situation requiring a response by such personnel, or, except for an alarm based on fire or medical emergency, find that the alarm site contains one or more unsecured exterior doors or windows. A false alarm includes an alarm caused by a power outage, but does not include an alarm caused by a force majeure or an extraordinary condition not reasonably within the control of the alarm business or alarm user. False alarms include situations involving an authorized person or persons at the alarm location who do not use the proper alarm code.”
- Malfunctioning alarm systems
- Owner, visitor, real estate agents, cleaning crews or other employee error in disarming the alarm system
- Doors or windows left open or ajar
- Animals locked inside and moving about the premises
- Mail being dropped through a door mail-drop slot
- Power outages coupled with improper battery back-up system
- Telephone line problems
- An overly-sensitive system that activates when persons rattle a door or window
- Drapes or balloons blowing in the breeze
- Improperly secured doors or windows blown open by wind
Oxnard’s Alarm Ordinance
Oxnard’s new alarm ordinance went into effect on February 7, 2019. The ordinance promotes alarm user responsibility and accountability.
Oxnard’s Alarm Ordinance incorporates measures to reduce the percentage of false alarms. According to the Security Alarm Industry Coalition (“SAIC”), studies have shown that “enhanced call confirmation” (“ECC”) policies and practices can prevent the vast majority of false alarms. The proposed Ordinance introduces ECC as a prerequisite to alarm companies requesting a police response to one of its client locations. ECC requires the alarm company to attempt to reach two (2) pre-designated contacts before requesting a police response. According to the National Monitoring Center, many agencies that have adopted ECC practices are reporting between a 60-70% decrease in false alarm responses. This reduction translates to increased officer availability to respond to other service demands.
Excessive False Alarms and Alarm User Responsibility
Oxnard’s alarm ordinance is designed to promote alarm user responsibility. Those alarm users whose alarm sites generate excessive alarm call responses by the Police Department will be fined. An “excessive” alarm location is defined in the Ordinance Section 11-63(P) as “The occurrence of two (2) or more false alarms, generated by an alarm user’s alarm system, within a twelve (12) month period.”
These standards apply to locations that are professionally monitored, as well as those locations that have “monitor it yourself” alarm systems.
When a location is deemed to have excessive false alarms, the alarm user will be fined $145 for each additional response within a twelve month period.
Those locations that demonstrate over five false alarm responses during a twelve month period may be subject to an alarm permit suspension or revocation. A suspension or revocation will result in fines up to $290 per response. It may even result in being placed on a “do not respond” status until the alarm user pays the fines, reinstates their permit, and obtains proof from their alarm company that the alarm was inspected and was found to be in good working order.
If you accidentally activate your alarm
If you set off a burglary alarm by accident in a home or a business, contact your alarm company immediately if they do not call you. If you cannot recite the property’s password or code word over the phone to the alarm operator, the police will be dispatched! A false alarm response becomes official once the officers advise dispatch that they are on scene.
It is recommended that you wait for the officers’ arrival in front of the property in plain view. Remember that the responding officers probably do not know who you are, so be prepared to offer some form of identification to establish your legal presence on the property in question.
In the case of an accidental activation of a robbery or takeover (ambush) alarm, be aware that the responding officers must assume the worst… And the worst for them is the presence of armed suspects on the property. The alarm company will not call you to verify this type of alarm. You may receive a telephone call from police dispatch. It is essential that you do exactly as you are told.