Police Response to Alarms

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White it may provide some deterrence, an alarm is designed to give warning that someone is breaking into your home or business; it is not designed to actually keep them out. The average police response time to an alarm was four minutes. While this does not give the burglar much time to search for valuables, or carry out large items, he may be able to get away with easy to find, easy to carry items before the police arrive. So don't think that an alarm will make up for deficiencies in physical security.

The Enid Police Department answered 2086 alarm calls, about 6 a day. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, more than nine out of ten alarms are false. This same agency also says that the largest single cause of false alarms is improper operation. It is therefore important that you and your family or employees clearly understand how to operate your system.

What type of alarm to get and what features it should have are questions best answered by you and the company from which you are getting the alarm. Ideally, all likely entry points such as doors and windows should be covered. Motion detectors can help cover unlikely points such as roofs and windows. If a full fledged system is beyond your budget, rather inexpensive alarms can be purchased and installed by the business or home owner.

Your alarm may sound a bell or siren when it goes off in order to frighten the burglar and let him know he has been detected. This may help reduce your loss. However this type of alarm often relies on someone nearby hearing it and calling the police. This causes two problems. First, no one may hear it, or if they do, no one may call. This may not be a problem unless the burglar decides to run the risk and take the time to complete his crime. The second problem is that it can really upset your neighbors when the alarm is always going off. Or when you are out of town and the alarm goes off, and no one can turn it off. Some of these alarms will reset themselves after a period of time. But if a malfunction set them off in the first place, they will probably go off again shortly.

Your alarm may silently (at least to the burglar) contact the police. Hopefully the police will arrive before he gets away, preventing him from breaking into someone else's home or business. Most burglars caught because of an alarm were caught with a silent alarm.

Once the police department has been contacted, officers will be sent to the location; usually a minimum of two officers. With business alarms, an alarm service may contact the owner or an employee at home and notify them of the alarm. Often this contact person will choose not to go to the business unless the police find obvious signs of a break-in. But even without such indications as an open door or a broken window, a burglary may still be taking place. Roof-top burglaries, "stay-behind" burglaries where the suspect gets himself locked into the building after closing, and employee burglaries where a key is used, are all examples of burglaries without visible signs of entry.

If you don't go to the scene and let the police in, these will not be discovered until the next day, if than. If there obviously has been a burglary, or if a door or window is found unlocked, the police will probably go into the building, even if the contact person has not arrived yet. If you are the contact person and it is apparent the police have already gone inside, DO NOT follow them in. They are in a dark strange building looking for a burglary. You are putting yourself and them in danger if you enter at this point.

If you arrive before the police, wait for them. DO NOT GO INSIDE. You are only complicating matters if the police find you inside a building where the alarm is going off. More importantly the alarm's purpose is to signal a break-in. You may come face to face with a burglar. If the police seem to be taking a long time, carefully drive around to the other side of the building. Sometimes only one officer can be assigned and he may be waiting on the other side, or an entry point may have been discovered over there.

Once you have made contact with the police outside, they probably will ask you to unlock the building so they can search it. After you have let them in, it is usually best that you wait outside in your locked car with the engine running; and not parked in full view of the inside of the building, or with your lights on. If you insist on going in with the police, you are putting them and yourself at risk. Your presence will, unintentional as it is, interfere with their search. Occasionally you may be asked to enter to unlock interior doors, or turn on lights.

The search may take some time. Be patient. Afterwards the officers will probably ask you to come in and look the place over to determine if anything is missing or disturbed. Usually, after this "walk through", you will reset the alarm. If it will not reset, some entry point may not be secure. If nothing is found there may have been a malfunction.

Despite the fact that the officers have searched the building, it is still possible that a suspect may yet be inside. Highly trained SWAT teams have missed cleverly hidden suspects. K-9 units have by-passed them. Even in a seemingly small commercial building there are many hiding places, some most unlikely, where a suspect might hide. The problem increases with the size of the building. It also happens that the suspect can stay moving during the officers' search, get behind them and hide in an already searched area. For these reasons it may be best to leave when the officers do.

Your alarm may go off without your knowledge, while you are in the building. The police really have no way of knowing if you belong there or not just be looking at you. Don't be offended if they act wary of you and ask for proof of who you are. Take them seriously. The officers don't know what is going on until they ask questions and try to verify the answers. A burglar caught in the act may try to act like an employee caught up in a false alarm.

When a home alarm goes off, it is seldom possible to contact the owner and ask him to come to the scene. The owner is either out of town, at work, or out for the evening. A neighbor may be able to let the officers in to search the home, if he has a key and if he is at home. Otherwise the officers are limited to checking the outside of the house for obvious signs of a break-in. By the way, if you are a neighbor and an alarm goes off next door, watch the house, but don't go over to it and don't go inside.

If there are no signs or entry, and all the doors and windows are locked, there is little else the police can do. This does not mean a burglary has not taken place. Without going inside, there is no way to be sure. In rare instances the officers may feel there is justification for forcing entry. These times might include circumstances where a witness insists they saw someone enter the house, or when there is reason to believe the owner is sick or injured inside.

If the officers do find signs of a break-in, or otherwise find an open window or door someone could have entered, they will probably go inside to search for intruders. Sometimes a family member has been inside all along and this makes for some awkward moments. Remember your alarm summoned the police there, warning of a break-in. For this reason alone it is essential that every family member, and anyone else who has a key, understands how the alarm works and how to prevent accidentally setting it off. Also caution them to take the officers seriously. Alarms are serious business.

Thank you for taking the time to read this information. If you have a better understanding of some of the issues involved in handling alarm calls it certainly helps us. We hope you found it helpful as well.