MORE ON HIDING ACCOUNTS FROM PHOENIX, ARIZONA PD
There is an old saying that promotes good relationships and positive dialog between parties who have a different viewpoint and that saying is that you should walk a mile in their shoes so that you can understand where they are coming from before you criticize them. The problem with this saying is that people have chosen to twist this saying to fit their ego by taking the attitude that walking a mile in another person’s shoes gives them the right to take your shoes and run a mile away where they feel safe before they offer meaningless harsh criticism because they know you can never catch them and pummel them when you are running after them with no shoes on your feet and they have a mile head start.
I have a great relationship with the alarm security industry at a local and national level. I do not use my position as the alarm inspector in Phoenix to attack the security industry and run away. So, to assume that I made this statement about alarm dealers hiding customers based on a one-off incident or where the responding officer simply can not locate an obvious address or recognize suspicious persons running from a building is appalling and says more about the character of the anonymous person who threw that worthless comment out. I spent the first 8.5 years with Phx. PD in patrol responding to calls for service including thousands of false alarm calls and have been dispatched to a bad address on more than one occasion. Over the past 11 years as the alarm inspector for Phoenix PD I have reviewed thousands of false alarm incidents, conducted hundreds of inspections of alarm equipment installations and have read thousands of pages of central station activity reports, have had conversations with the alarm companies who do these things and I deal with problems that come up like this in a professional manner.
Phoenix has had a false alarm ordinance since 1977. Our alarm unit is in-house at the PD which allows us to maintain communication with the responding patrol officers. We are running a custom built false alarm tracking database that we developed back in 1990 before there were any third party alarm tracking with payment processing software companies to outsource the work to. Our agency is not shipping out the false alarm issue to another city department or third party vender solution like a lot of other municipalities do. Our alarm coordinator and civilian staff are not distracted because they are handling other jobs or assignments for the department. We have two detectives assigned full time as alarm system inspectors that go out and get our hands dirty looking at the worst of the worst security system installations. The security industry is front and center on our radar screen.
Many cities across the country do not even have an alarm ordinance or just started one and have people running the alarm unit that come from an administrative background with little or no training on what goes on in the security industry. Other cities may have an alarm ordinance that has been in place for several years, but they focus on getting permits and collecting fees.
I am blessed to work for the Phoenix Police Department. My job is to know the security industry inside out and how it impacts law enforcement. When I started at this position the Az. Alarm Association arranged for me to ride along with the lead service tech for several local alarm companies and I spent 2 months out in the field on service calls and new installs. I was invited by a local alarm company to go thru the NSCA's EST training series with their alarm techs (thanks Ben). The department put me thru the ESA's NTS alarm tech training and I attend CEU class’s right alongside industry techs. I get to go to the security industry association meetings, trade shows, dealer appreciation events, local distributor shows and sit in class with alarm techs at security product training seminars. I read the web threads or blogs like this one and subscribe to several of the security trade journals. I log into the security equipment manufacturer web sites to get product specs and work with their tech support staff to discuss alarm equipment installation issues that I come across during inspections. As an agency, we participate on several security industry committees as a representative of the law enforcement community working on security industry standards and best practices. I teach other law enforcement alarm coordinators about the security industry thru the Az. Alarm Association Public Safety Committee events and the national law enforcement alarm coordinators association; False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA). I teach the security industry customers who come to the Phoenix PD false alarm prevention program about alarm systems and security industry practices. I teach false alarm prevention to corporate management and loss prevention teams from national companies.
Please understand that I am not an adversary looking to do battle with the security industry because we both (PD and the security industry) have an occupation that implores us to do what is right and to protect the citizens of our community that we serve. PD and the security industry have a vested interest to see each other succeed in our missions. I even teach alarm companies who invite me to come speak to their staff about our processes and how law enforcement responds to the alarm calls. That is why I decided to bring up this issue in this forum.
How do I know that dealers are hiding accounts like a business under a residential contract? Our alarm unit staff downloads the false alarm calls from the CAD 911 system and matches it to the subscriber alarm permits on a daily basis. They are looking at the alarm dispatch details, responding officer’s comments and the subscriber alarm permit information to make sure that the false alarm is posted to the right permit account. When they find one where the name does not match up (possible hidden account) they burn a copy and throw it on my desk. We make a note on the subscriber permit database that this location is being called in under a different name. I have a lot of things to do so I pick and choose my battles. When I see one where the officers can not find the location of the alarm I hit the street and follow up because I have a customer (citizen) that is paying for a monitoring service plus it is a waste of our time if we keep going back out there.
How bad is it? I am preparing for an inspection in a small strip mall today at 40th St & McDowell Rd. I looked up all of the alarm permits that we have on file in that strip mall. Just doing a random review I found two commercial business accounts are listed as a residence and each of them are with a different national dealer program. I can find this problem over and over again at small strip malls or large shopping centers and other multi-unit commercial properties in Phoenix that have small business tenants.
The problem is that we do not have time to sit and write letters or call the alarm company on all of them. Even when PD takes the time to try and fix it we hit a roadblock because the alarm company has a written contract and won't accept the change from us. I see it logged as a comment in the central station activity report when I review the history for inspections where the central operator documented that PD called back to get help finding the place or to update the location because it is a business. Who at the alarm company follows up on that or kicks it back to the dealer? What other PD agency even knows about this problem or bothers to raise a red flag?
Ken, what provision is there in a monitoring contract that allows or protects the alarm company if a PD agency calls in or sends a letter requesting to make changes to the customer’s name or dispatch location?
As far as strip malls go, the address configuration is similar to an apartment complex where PD is dispatched to a unit # expecting to find a "residence," not a retail store or whatever. If it was only as easy as the simple minded comment made by Mr. Texas. As he tried to explain it, using the Kirschenbaum residence or the All-In-One Contract Store, how is PD supposed to know they are the same thing; he must think that PD has a CSI crystal ball like Hollywood right?? Half of the time the suite numbers are gone or have been covered up so the responding officers can not see them and we have to rely on the business signage at the premises. If the signage does not match up, it is coded as a bad address and we move on because we have other calls waiting to roll on. Phoenix is not some small rural town PD agency that only handles 1000 radio calls on a bad day where the officer knows everybody or is related to a third of the people who live in town and can waste time trying to figure out something that was intentionally misleading (by the security dealer) from the start.
How can the security industry help? Run the address on your subscriber contract thru your favorite internet search engine and look at the map street view. It's pretty simple if you locate a strip mall or commercial property to tell that this is not a residential location. You will find out pretty quick which one of your dealers is pulling this trick on you.
I am not surprised when you say that you did not realize this was a problem from your vantage point. It may be that the security industry does not openly discuss this issue up in the "C-Suites" because the problem is down off of the corporate ladder at the street level where the rubber meets the road with the commission based sales team that is pushing for numbers as they drop off the van full of door-to-door knockers or a small startup dealer that has a financial cash flow motive to be deceptive when they pass the contract to their national program.
The other possibility is that you have not heard about this is because the national alarm companies running dealer programs are the ones that have the majority of this problem just by nature of how they fund the dealer or pay salesmen and they have their own legal team to keep things under wraps. Who outside of their own organization is reviewing their subscriber accounts and calling them out on this? Do they air out their dirty laundry for everyone to see? Not unless it hits the media or ends up in court, but even court matters can be silenced by a good legal team. So, if RMR is good, and numbers are high, who is looking back to critique how their dealers get the customers as long as they get the customers? Unfortunately law enforcement has to deal with the end result of this issue.
As a matter of law I can not state the names of the offending parties just like you (Ken) protect your client’s identity, but I can give the details as a generic example for others to learn from. As they say, the names have been changed to protect the ignorant from ridicule. The bottom line is that I am more concerned about the safety of my brothers and sisters behind the badge and providing service to the citizens in my community first and then helping the security industry avoid litigation is second. I am glad that this topic is stirring up some emotions; maybe somebody will take the time to review some of their accounts and actually do something about it before someone gets hurt.
I do my best to walk a mile in your shoes with you before I comment about the security industry. I am proud to put my name on what I write in a public forum because I believe what I say and I am willing to put my reputation on the line. Even though I risk being critiqued by another person, I believe that taking the risk and accepting the criticism makes me better at my job. Thanks for all of the helpful feedback and supportive comments from your listeners!
Detective H.W."Robbie" Robinson #5002
Phoenix Police Code Enforcement Unit
Alarm contracts can be modified to provide that the alarm company can change dispatch information on request of the AHJ. I am not aware of any alarm contract that presently has such provision.
On a side note, Robbie, you are obviously well versed in the alarm industry and I won't be surprised if you end up in the industry when you're collecting your PD pension. Hopefully you won't opt for one of the national dealer programs.