Dozens of Dallas residents, upset at proposed changes to how Dallas Police respond to home and business security alarms, expressed their opposition at a Dallas City Council meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
The Dallas Police Department has proposed Verified Response as a means of reducing the amount of police resources wasted in response to false alarms. The department’s figures show that of 62,000 alarms in 2004, 97% were false. Under the proposed changes, police would no longer automatically respond to home and business alarms. Instead, they would wait for visual confirmation by the alarm security company, which would be responsible for sending a security guard to a location to ensure that any alarm is authentic.
In a presentation before City Council, Police Chief David Kunkle claimed that Verified Response will provide Dallas with the “greatest single opportunity to free up” officers’ time for important police work. He told Council that the program has worked in other cities, that it has the support of many police associations, that it would keep Dallas safer than it is now, and that “people will be satisfied” with it. Kunkle offered assurances that Dallas police would continue to respond to all 911 calls and all “panic button” alarms triggered by residents.
Opponents of the plan countered with a variety of arguments. In a series of presentations before City Council spanning 2 hours, many Dallas residents called instead for increased fines for false alarms. Some objected to the police “penalizing” responsible alarm users by refusing to respond to their alarms. Many others claimed that Dallas ’ crime rate would rise as criminals come to realize that police will no longer respond to an alarm.
Other residents disputed Chief Kunkle’s claim that the program has enjoyed success in other cities. District 13 resident Calie Stephens pointed out that Los Angeles rejected Verified Response. District 9 resident Keith James claimed that Milwaukee , a city cited by Kunkle as having successfully adopted Verified Response, is not comparable to Dallas because of Dallas ’ larger size.
Some speakers disputed Police Department concerns over the cost of false alarms. Charles Lee, a resident of district 9, claimed that that city could recoup the cost of responding to false alarms by charging for every one and raising the existing fine. Speaker Jim Smith noted that the number of false alarms has fallen substantially in recent years, from 135,000 in 1994 to less than half of that figure in 2004. Non-resident Kathleen Schraufnagel, a security industry employee, predicted that the false alarm situation would improve in the coming years.
A handful of residents spoke in favor of Verified Response. District 2 resident Dr Julian Peterson supported the proposal and also called for higher taxes in order to fund more police. Judd Bradbury of district 14 told Council that 86% of taxpayers don’t have home alarms and claimed that the cost of responding to home alarms amounts to a $750,000 per year subsidy by non-alarm residents to those with alarms. Non-resident Bob Kenney of Kensky Security Services countered claims that untrained security guards would be dispatched to respond to alarms. Kenney pointed out that all security guards tasked with responding to alarms are licensed and regulated by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Dallas Mayor Laura Miller acknowledged that City Council is split on the issue and plans further work on it. A vote is expected by the end of the year.