Security alert: Toronto police change policy on alarm response

By Des Ryan, a retired police officer, who is the volunteer safety and security lead on the CRA’s board of directors.

How many times have you accidentally tripped your house alarm? Too often to remember?

More often than not, false alarms are the result of user error. This results in having to dispatch two (yes, two!) officers to an address only to discover that all appears to be in order (as we like to say in policing circles!) each and every time.

This is an extremely costly process and consumes an enormous amount of deployable police hours: Toronto Police report that, in 2016, more than 97 per cent of alarm calls turned out to be false.

As a result, as of September 10th, the Toronto Police Service has implemented a new policy. Going forward, Police will be responding to alarm calls under the following conditions:
– the Monitoring Station is registered with the TPS, complied with call-processing requirements and is not under any TPS suspensions; and,
– the Monitoring Station must also comply with the verified response requirement as applied to burglar alarm system signals.

Since these conditions have to do with your alarm company, be sure to contact them asap to ensure that they are doing their part.

Other criteria that determine whether your alarm will be responded to include what is called “acceptable verified response criteria.”. These include:

– Audio devices (i.e., alarm systems that transfer real-time audio to an actual person listening in on the alarm);
– Video device (same as above, only real-time video transfer);
– An eyewitness (i.e. private security or person at scene); or
– Multiple zone activations (i.e., an alarm system that separates and reports incidents or alarm signals by areas that are monitored by the Monitoring Station. Zone 1 – Front Door, Zone 2 –Front Entry Motion, Zone 3 –Kitchen Motion, etc.).

What this means is that, rather than chasing after alarms like a dog after a ball in the park, TPS will only be responding to alarms that are legitimately verifiable. Having so said, there is nothing saying that the aforementioned ball-chasing dog could not be frolicking in your home, setting off multiple zone alarms in your house.

Note to self: do not set zone alarm unless dog is out of house.

Then, be sure to do your part in reducing false alarms (and getting yourself suspended from police response!). This includes changing the batteries of your alarm. Frequently. Make sure the sensors are clear of cobwebs and other debris that can send a false reading. Make sure your keyholder information is up-dot-date and be sure to schedule regular maintenance on the alarm. Finally, make sure your family and anyone else who uses the system knows how it works.

If you have any further concerns, or you just really like to read policy, check this out.

As an aside, this does not affect police response to Panic Alarm.

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