MORE FROM PHOENIX PD ON HIDING ACCOUNT IDENTITY FROM AUGUST 14 AND 24, 2015 ARTICLES
I beg to differ with you on your comment:
"Central stations do not call in alarms to first responders [police, fire] using a Dealer's name. Typically it's the operator who identifies him or herself. If the responder has caller id then it knows who is calling, and it's not the Dealer, it's the central station."
Your statement is only half accurate and it depends on the type of central station business model. If it is a central that is running a “dealer program” where the dealer sells and installs under the name of the central station then your comment is correct in most cases. However, it is a completely different world with the 3rd party central stations that provide wholesale monitoring for dealers who hold their subscriber accounts “in-house.” This also applies to the 3rd party central stations that monitor for the large financial investment companies that buy up alarm contracts when a dealer wants to sell off some of their customers for cash. Your statement is not entirely accurate in this circumstance.
Some dealers own the phone number that the 3rd party central station is answering for them. The dealer purchases the phone number because they can take all of their customers to another 3rd party central by simply having the phone company reroute the connection. This allows the dealer to keep all of his customers and move to another 3rd party central if the dealer gets a better wholesale $$ rate for monitoring or sells off the accounts. This practice of a dealer owning the phone number means that the dealer does not have to go out and reprogram all of their alarm control panels with a new phone number when they switch central stations.
Our experience in Phoenix is that the 3rd party central stations hide behind the dealer name 99.9% of the time and they often refuse to tell us who they are or give up the true name of the central station. The 3rd party central hides their identity behind the dealer name or a generic name such as “central monitoring” so that nobody can figure out who they are. When I need to know who the central station is for a subscriber that is monitored by a 3rd party central station I usually have to ask the operator at the central to tell me what the name of the company is that is on their paycheck before they give it up and sometimes they still refuse claiming security reasons.
I have been told by owners of 3rd party centrals that it is their company policy their central station operators do not give out this info. They deflect to the dealer because most of the time the AHJ or the subscriber is having problems with the account /system and the central does not want to be caught in the middle. The 3rd party central does not have any direct dealings with the subscriber other than monitoring duties as directed by their contract with the dealer. All AHJ inquiries, programming changes, special instructions, RP updates or equipment issues with the subscriber have to be handled by the dealer.
I pretty much always find out who the 3rd party central is and a fair amount of them are not properly licensed as a central monitoring station in Arizona. My take on this is that they think that they can hide behind the dealer (license) and avoid detection; therefore, they avoid getting caught without a license. They complain that there are way too many local or state laws and it makes it nearly impossible for them to get licensed everywhere. As you imply, run under the radar with a few accounts, if you get caught, claim ignorance, apologize and submit a license application, kind of like asking a cop for a break on a minor traffic ticket. Then there are those in life who push the limits…
I met one central station owner at the ESA leadership conference in Phoenix last year who told me that he does not need to get a license for his central station because the violations are a misdemeanor and because he was a former police commissioner who understood the difficulty of out of state prosecution, he knew that I could never extradite him, so the fact that I had a criminal complaint issued against him did not matter… I replied that I don’t need to extradite him because I would just target all of his dealers and subscribers who live in Phoenix. I explained that it was pretty simple to make a case against him by bringing charges against his dealers in Phoenix (who I can arrest) for doing business with him and I can subpoena the subscribers as witnesses. I followed up by asking him, if he thought his dealers will be happy because he did not get a license if I did that? Short answer, no.
I also explained that I have another way to deal with out of state alarm businesses or central stations that refuse to get a license. I intentionally schedule alarm system inspections with subscribers who have unlicensed out of state alarm companies. When I show up at the inspection I explain the alarm laws to the dealer or subcontracted service tech in front of the subscriber. I explain to the subscriber that I am only requiring them to go thru the inspection because their alarm company or central station does not have a license; otherwise I would not be here. I then ask the dealer or subcontracted service tech if they want to continue with the inspection understanding that I will arrest them for contracting to do service work with an unlicensed alarm company, or would they like an opportunity to evaluate their predicament and back out now. I have never had a dealer or subcontracted service tech who was willing to take the hit and continue with the inspection, imagine that. I then ask the subscriber for their state issued identification card so I can I.D. them for court while explaining to the subscriber that their alarm company failed to comply with the inspection requirement which means that it is illegal for them (subscriber and the alarm business) to continue to operate their alarm system and if the subscriber turns on the alarm system tonight or at any time until they comply with the alarm inspection requirements I can charge them (subscriber and alarm company) for illegal operation of the alarm system. I explain that they need to contact me to reschedule the alarm system inspection once that they have a fully licensed alarm company.
This is exactly what I did to an alarm company based out of Florida that refused in writing to get an alarm business license after arguing with the City of Phoenix legal Department attorneys. They just happen to have a “national contract” with a large corporate chain store that had several locations in Phoenix. I would like to have heard the phone conversation after I left the inspection.
Detective Robbie Robinson
Phoenix Police Code Enforcement Unit, Alarm Inspections
Seems to me there are two issues under discussion:
- whether it matters if the subscriber is commercial or residential, for response purposes
- whether alarm companies are getting licensed, which raises the additional issue of whether only the central station performing the monitoring needs a license or if the dealer contracting for the monitoring needs the license, or both
In a separate email Detective Robinson let me know that our list of states requiring an alarm license for monitoring needed updating to include Arizona. By the time this email circulated our website will be updated to include Arizona https://www.kirschenbaumesq.com/page/alarm-law-issues . Thanks Detective.
Here is what Detective Robinson sent me:
I am the alarm inspector / detective for the Phoenix Police Department Alarm Inspections Detail and we have had an alarm business license requirement that includes central monitoring stations that only monitor alarms in our city ordinance (attached PDF) for over 15 years until 2012 when the State of Arizona passed the alarm business license law which became effective in 2013 and superseded our city alarm ordinance.
Ref: Arizona Revised Statutes Title 32
32-101. Purpose; definitions
B.4. "Alarm business":
(a) Means any person who, either alone or through a third party, engages in the business of either of the following:
(i) Providing alarm monitoring services.
32-122.05. Certification of alarm businesses; application; fingerprinting; fee; renewal
A. Beginning May 1, 2013, the board shall issue certificates to alarm businesses and alarm agents. Beginning October 1, 2013, a person shall not operate an alarm business unless the person obtains an alarm business certificate from the board. A separate certificate is required for each business name under which an alarm business conducts business or advertises except that one certificate may be used for two businesses with the same ownership.
I would appreciate it if you could update your list to include Arizona. It makes my job easier when the central monitoring station operators see that Arizona has an alarm business license requirement that includes them, especially with growth of the monitored DIY systems sold over the internet.
So the second issue raised above seems settled. You need an alarm license in Arizona to do alarm business and that includes monitoring. The first issue of why it matters if its residential or commercial is not clear to me and I hope Detective Robinson will clarify that.
I think Detective Robinson is confusing the incoming lines owned by the dealers [if they are smart and retain ownership of their own lines] and the outgoing lines used by the central station operators to call the first responders. Incoming lines are not, I believe, used for outgoing calls because that would tie up the line. Since there are typically 1000 accounts assigned to a line, with another line available when that line is tied up, it makes no sense that the incoming lines would be used for outgoing calls.
I stand by my original comment that most central stations will identify themselves by operator number and central station name, not the dealer's name unless PD specifically asks who installed the account. I'm not even sure if the cs operator will know the dealer name on the screen that pops up the signal [we'd like to hear from the central stations on this issue and other issues raised by Phoenix PD].
As far as license enforcement, of course the PD is entitled to enforce the law. Arrests and extraditing offenders does seem a bit extreme for this offense, especially if the motive behind the legislation is revenue raising rather than improved and more efficient police protection.
Dealers and central stations need to be licensed in all jurisdictions where they conduct business with even a single subscriber. There is no national law that preempts state or municipal law for conducting alarm business, including monitoring. While not all AHJs are as diligent as Detective Robinson, it's to his credit that he is actively seeking to enforce the law. And, thanks for using this forum to enlighten us and hopefully make your job easier as well as protect the alarm companies smart enough to get with the program.
For licensing assistance contact Jesse Kirschenbaum,Esq at Jesse@Kirschenbaumesq.com or 516 747 6700 x 307, or Nicoletta Lakatos,Esq at NLakatos@Kirschenbaumesq.com or 516 747 6700 x 311. For nationwide forms contact our Contract Administrator Eileen Wagda at EWagda@Kirschenbaumesq.com or 516 747 6700 x 312.
If you have anything to contribute to this topic or others of interest, reply to this email with your comment.