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COMMENT ON COMPETING IN DIY MARKET AND USA CENTRAL'S DRAGONFLY PROGRAM FROM SEPTEMBER 28 2015 ARTICLE
How to really tick off a police officer in 10 seconds…
According to Bart:
“What makes this system so effective is its ability to detect an intruder<\m>inside or outside before they break in<\m>and take a 10 second video clip, send it to a user’s cell phone where they can determine if the event is threatening, and link it with professional monitoring….” [who I found to be very of contentious about training their “worker bee” CMS [central monitoring station] operators to make a judgment call and frankly afraid to take on this liability, so they try and pass it off to the PSAP]
“The central station operator reviews this emergency alarm signal and the actual video clip and immediately notifies local law enforcement as a virtual eyewitness. Law enforcement gives this type of alarm a higher priority and faster response because it’s treated as a crime-in-progress.”
I really appreciate how advanced the technology is in the security industry except for one major flaw. Every piece of highly engineered security product on the market suffers from the “human factor” installation and the CMS “human factor” monitoring process when it is all said and done.
The CMS industry had better step up their game and get better at being the “gatekeeper” that stands in the gap between the human factor installations (DIY & professional) and the LE PSAP’s, especially with regards to the “Verified Alarm” and silent burglar alarm systems. When I bring up this “gatekeeper” concept with CMS management they complain about having to follow so many rules that they leave it up to the dealers to make sure that the “contracts” comply with local alarm ordinances. Really, give me a break, if you want to play like a big dog in a business that has a global presence you better do “your due diligence” to make sure that you follow the local AHJ laws.
They tell me how hard it is for them to change the CMS software so that it is programmed with a required field for ECV to prevent an account form being registered in the database or “online” without the necessary phone numbers for basic ECV let alone the weird Phoenix Alarm Ordinance that has Premise Plus 2 ECV (how many of you knew that?) I bet salesmen and dealers would stop submitting contracts with only a single phone number if they can not even get the account online with the CMS.
What about the subscriber that lives in another state and does not have anyone listed as an RP for their winter home where the alarm system is located like our lovely snowbirds? Can the security industry up-sell them a private security response subscription service because the local AHJ has a law which makes it illegal for the CMS to even request PD dispatch unless an RP is available to be at the scene of the alarm activation in 30 minutes or less? Sure they can! Just ask the subscriber if they are serious about that “crime in progress” verification system or not?
It is pretty simple, if you really believe there is a “crime in progress” because someone is stealing your stuff then you better have a local RP to get out there to meet the police, make a burglary report and secure the busted windows at the premises because that is what happens at a typical crime in progress burglary. Oh, but wait, the CMS told the PSAP there is no RP listed on the monitoring contract that is going to respond from Minnesota to Phoenix in 30 minutes, they said they will be down there next winter season. So, I guess that they will leave their house busted open and wait to call about that crime in progress to make a report when they get to Phoenix, right??? Is that what property managers and security guard response services get paid to do? I know some very fine people that can provide local security guard response to alarm calls in the Phoenix metro market for your customers that hibernate in Phoenix for the winter.
So why do I make such a major point about the CMS being the gatekeeper for the sake of the security industry? Pretty much every alarm call that comes into a PSAP comes from a “professional” CMS right? Who in the security industry is in a better position than the CMS to improve the relationship with the law enforcement community? Every CMS operator knows which dealers are a pain in the rear and are prone to have “subscriber” or installation issues. Every CMS has their frequent flier subscriber list that they would love to see cancel their monitoring contracts. As the industry evolves with the ASAP to PSAP your subscriber accounts may get automatically rejected by the PSAP for things like not doing ECV or not having enough phone numbers on the account to do ECV, requesting dispatch to non-critical signals, no permit, etc. So when are you (CMS industry) going to take a serious attitude about the security industry’s image in the eyes of LE and actually do something about it other than count your precious RMR.
If the central monitoring station segment of the security industry does nothing except to lay the blame on the DIY guy or blame user error on behalf of the messed up professional tech installed systems and then passes the (RMR) buck thru the central monitoring station then it should be no surprise that there will continue be backlash from LE. Why do you have a Central Station Alarm Association CSAA that develops (voluntary) industry standards and best practices for CMS when several of the CMS do not even follow them?? Or well, I should say, at least they pick and choose to follow the important ones to minimize their liability, but fail to implement other “best practices” that have an impact on the LE community if a “special” subscriber segment wants to pay extra RMR to have PD babysitting their premises.
Here is my issue with standards and best practices: Phoenix was told by several CMS; yes, those are the CSAA/ANSI standards for the CMS industry plus other organizations or standard bodies have developed best practices, but unless you make them law in the Phoenix alarm code we do not follow them. Then even after Phoenix made it illegal for a CMS to call and request PD based on the standards or best practices the CMS said it is not their job to police (pun intended) their dealers to make sure that they use subscriber contracts that comply with all of the AHJ alarm ordinances across the country that have dispatch restrictions because they are covered by their indemnity clause. Remember Ken said, the indemnity clause in your CMS-Dealer contract does not exempt you from criminal matters. So why do CMS still call for PD dispatch with no attempt at ECV or allow an account to go online when they only have one phone number, make dispatch requests to non-critical alarm signals, fail to have a responder to meet the PD on the scene of a “crime in progress” verified alarm activation? So here we sit in a quagmire that could be resolved by the “professional” central monitoring stations.
What caught my eye in Bart’s article puts an emphasis on how bad this can get when he states that his CMS and others in search of ways to maintain the security business RMR model will offer to the public a system that will allow a CMS to process a 10 second video clip related to an alarm call from “outside before they break in” and report it to the police as a “video verified alarm” to elicit a “priority response” from law enforcement. This is chapter one in a book I am thinking about writing when I retire called “How To Really Tick Off A Police Officer In 10 Seconds,” especially an officer(s) who just raced to the scene of another “verified” false alarm, again. The CMS industry needs to seriously consider their role in “Priority Response” other than how can it increase the RMR and take a look at the law enforcement training on reducing the line of duty deaths to “Below 100.” Go to www.below100.org to see what LE is going thru.
Just because someone is “outside” your premises does not mean that a “crime is in progress” no matter how suspicious they look. We do not dispatch officers as a hot call priority one for a potential trespassing or a person in a common area or public space or at your front door just because of how suspicious they look. There must be an element of urgency or criminal activity that can be reasonably articulated by the CMS operator. PD may dispatch an officer priority two or broadcast and file depending on the PD agencies policy.
My personal favorite is the Phoenix PSAP recording of the CMS that was getting slammed with video alarm activations from a construction site and had an internal battle with their “professional” dealer over the placement of the outdoor motion activated cameras with 10 second video clips because the dealer refused to relocate the cameras that he claimed were installed at the site on poles in a five gallon buckets as the manufacturer specified. Off the record, the CMS manager told me that the CMS was sick and tired of watching all of the videos, so the CMS decided that they would “blow up the customer with false alarm fees” (so the subscriber would complain to the dealer) by calling PD to report every “video verified alarm” without using ECV because it was the CMS policy to dispatch PD first on every “human activity” even if it was just the traffic (city bus) driving down McDowell Rd. I got several of the video clips from the CMS that showed the same problem night after night and pulled the PSAP tapes. Even the PSAP operator had to keep his cool as he took the call when he clarified with the CMS operator that they are actually requesting PD dispatch based on a 10 second video which only shows “traffic driving by” in the background. I played that 10 second video clip on a repeating loop (for several minutes) while everyone was listening to the audio of the CMS explain this to the Phoenix PD PSAP for the education of all of the other law enforcement agencies who were at the 2014 AzAA annual conference and the 2015 FARA symposium in Vegas. Oh, boy was that a hot-call!
I get the concept of pushing this type of product out as a DIY for companies looking to survive or compete, but DIY and CMS beware if the system is picking up human activity in an area that is not secured and then reporting this to police as a crime in progress. I am very familiar with the video verified technology that Bart is referring to. I have no problem going after subscribers and alarm companies for installing this type of product at a site with a “non-secured” perimeter or even a poorly secured perimeter area like construction sites with temporary fencing, or a camera that is picking up activity in the background that is outside of the protected perimeter.
I have in the past and I am sure I will in the future testify against the alarm company at an appeal hearing if the subscriber does not want to pay their false alarm fees and get out of their contract because the alarm company did not install an alarm system that is compatible with the environment where it is installed. I had one company install an outdoor video verified system in central Phoenix as a “verified trespassing alarm with priority response” because a medical office was tired of the people (“trespassers”) making a mess as they cut across their open, unsecured parking lot to walk in the shade next to the building when it is 110+ degrees outside.
Obviously the DIY does not have an alarm company to blame for the installation, but they do have a CMS monitoring contract and if the CMS is not following the rules such as ECV Enhanced Call Verification then they (CMS) can be ordered by the hearing officer to pay the false alarm assessments.
My ace in the hole is that the Phoenix alarm ordinance requires that the CMS contact the alarm owner or other responsible party who is required to respond or make arrangements for someone to respond to the scene of the alarm activation in 30 minutes without unreasonable delay to meet with the police officers. It is a class one misdemeanor for the alarm owner to fail to make arrangements for someone to respond to the scene of the alarm activation. This same rule applies to a person who decides to MIY. I will use this against the alarm owner that has a “verified” alarm system if they think that they can have the CMS call the PD on a “verified alarm” that is supposed to be a “crime in progress” and they decide to go back to sleep or tell the CMS they will only respond if the PD finds anything. PD is not your priority drive-by security patrol. If your alarm customer does not take a “crime in progress” verified alarm seriously, then why should PD?
I represented the law enforcement community on the PPVAR Partnership for Priority Verified Alarm Response that developed the industry best practices for both Video and Audio “Verified Alarm Response.” I don’t recall Bart or any other representative from USA Central taking part in the years of committee debate as we hashed out these two industry Best Practices. My hat is off to those like me who stuck it out from beginning to end through both Video and then Audio verification best practices!! Shout out to ya’ll, thanks!
PPVAR basically came to this conclusion; Priority Response hinges around a single issue, the CMS operator must be able to “articulate” to the PSAP what the “human presence” is doing in the 10 second (or longer) video (or audio) clip that reasonably appears to be a “crime in progress” that warrants a priority response by law enforcement. PPVAR finally agreed on this profound concept that the “simple presence” of human activity in the audio/video clip is not evidence of a crime in progress in the eyes of law enforcement. I would highly recommend any CMS that wants to go down this path download the PPVAR Audio and Video Verified Alarms Best Practices and follow them or else risk poisoning the well for everybody in the industry. Pay special attention to: Alarm Verification and Notification Procedures Section 5. Threat evaluation and section 6.2. Standard & Enhanced Video Verification Procedures 22.214.171.124.2.2.3. If the video is from an Unsecured Outdoor source the CMS operator may close the incident. [Without further action.]
I do agree with Bart on this point:
“Dialing 911 from a cell phone only alerts law enforcement of the location of the cell phone, not the local jurisdiction responsible to respond to their residence.”
I really do appreciate the support from CMS operators like Bart at USA Central Station when he spoke out a few weeks ago about the practice of other CMS that call PD for dispatch on non-critical supervisory (babysitting) alarm activations. Maybe Bart would volunteer to chair a CSAA committee to start up a special “Gatekeepers Award” for the central stations that stand up to their dealers for higher accountability and uniform application of “voluntary standards” on all monitoring accounts regardless of the impact on the RMR in an effort to improve the relationship with the law enforcement community.
Another interesting twist is this, what happens if an MIY calls PD when that jurisdiction has a NR non-response policy? If the MIY is suffering from an adrenaline spike and is yelling at the PSAP that someone is in their home, will the PSAP even know that this is related to an alarm system? I am willing to bet that a PSAP will dispatch on a hysterical DIY-MIY even if they have a non-response policy because the PSAP operator would have to get the MIY to calm down and ask them a lot of questions to figure out it is a DIY-MIY alarm. When was the last time a CMS operator called a PSAP yelling hysterically to report an alarm activation?
Another point to ponder:
If ECV is as successful in reducing false alarms as reported, then considering that MIY is the purest form of ECV, will an MIY ever report a false alarm? Sure they will, I am an optimist, not a fool. But I am reasonably certain that a CMS that does not reach an RP during ECV will still call for PD dispatch 99% of the time when an MIY will not call if they miss the notification, at least right away.
Detective H.W."Robbie" Robinson
Phoenix Police Code Enforcement Unit , Alarm Inspections
Phoenix, Az. 85034
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MARKETING YOUR ALARM COMPANY presented in a 3 series webinar
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