August 2007 - Posts

Dallas Storeowner: Verified Response a Joke

Dallas business owners are angry about the rising number of break-ins that they attribute to the city’s verified response policy. 

What is even more frustrating is that business owners now find it necessary to secure their goods inside safes – inside the premises at which they went through the expense of equipping with an alarm system.

Had Vicki Demarco not gone through this ritual recently, her family’s store could have been emptied by thieves. Demarco and her husband Harry started clearing the store of merchandise after the third break-in in six months. "Probably the last time we got broken in to, if we would've left our store like this (with merchandise visible), we would've been totally wiped out," she said. 

"For 17 years we've had no break-ins and then the verified response went into effect and all of a sudden the chains came off of everybody," said Harry Demarco. "This verified response is a joke."

Providing Safe Student Housing

Alarm dealers have the opportunity to capitalize on the growing demand for safe, off-campus student housing. 

With the academic year upon us, inevitable horror stories will unfold, such as the August 13, 2007 fire death at Bradley University. As the occurrence of similar tragedies grows each semester, so to will the demand for safe student housing.

That means NOW is the time to target builders planning renovations or new developments near colleges and universities.

Although student housing – all buildings for that matter – is safer now than 20 years ago, since January 2000, there have been 113 campus-related fire deaths across the country, with 90 percent of them occurring in off-campus and Greek housing, according to Campus Firewatch. These statistics show that there is increased risk to residents of less-regulated private homes or apartments. That’s because, oftentimes, even when smoke detectors are present, the devices are disabled by residents in preparation for large gatherings where smoke may fill the air. A classic example of this took place just off the Amherst campus of University of Massachusetts.

With a monitored fire-alarm system, disabled devices would cause the control panel to complain about the lack of signal. For increased security, intelligent detection devices have the ability to continuously sample the air and adjust detection parameters and alarm thresholds accordingly – without user intervention.

With either technology installed, the control panel would bring attention to the compromised detector and the landlord would be contacted to address the situation – hopefully before tragedy results.

Illinois Fire Marshal Pushes Campus Safety with “LOOK UP” Campaign

To kick off the 2007/8 academic year, the Illinois State Fire Marshal launched its “LOOK UP!” campus fire safety campaign at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Safety posters being offered to all colleges to encourage students to “look up” and make sure they have working smoke alarms in living quarters.

State Fire Marshal Dave Foreman said the campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the importance of working smoke alarms in both on- and off-campus housing. Foreman joined staff and students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus Wednesday to begin putting up the safety posters around the campus.

“For many young adults, college is the first time they are living on their own. As they return to campus for the fall semester, there’s so much to think about – getting books, finding classrooms, meeting up with friends. We want them to put ‘check the smoke alarm’ on the top of that list. That quick check could save their lives. We appreciate the efforts of staff here at the University of Illinois in helping us get this important message to students,” said Foreman.

Dallas’ Contentious Verified Response Law May be Reviewed

The uproar response to the City of Dallas policy requiring verified response may lead to the overturn of this hot-topic ordinance.

Following months of debate between concerned business owners and the Dallas Police Department, the Dallas City Council approved a law, by a vote of 8-5 in late 2005, that requires business owners to independently corroborate the validity of a sounding burglar alarm before police will respond. 

The Dallas Police Department’s position was that more than 19 in 20 burglar alarms in Dallas ultimately prove to be false. But opponents of verified response argued the policy gives criminals a free pass to terrorize businesses and places businesspeople in peril by forcing them to confirm burglaries that may very well be in progress.

The opponents appear to have been correct. During the first month of verified response – March 2006 – burglaries in Dallas increased sharply, up 17.9 percent compared to March the year prior. 

Now, Mayor Tom Leppert, who campaigned for the office with a position against verified response, said it is time for the city fathers to review the law. “I do plan to bring it before the council again. Clearly there are different opinions on it, and at that time, they will come out.”  

Mayor Leppert apparently has support from a growing number on the council. “It’s doing the businesses of Dallas an injustice,” said District 13 council member, Mitchell Rasansky, in reply to a business owner who complained to the council. “Council – we need to take another look at this. It’s wrong, and it’s wrong for businesses.”

District 9 council member Sheffie Kadane agreed, “This is a very dangerous situation for our property owners.”

Such comments give hope to Chris Russell, president of the North Texas Alarm Association, which had unsuccessfully fought Dallas’ verified response policy in the first place. “Since it was enacted, the policy has pretty much failed. You have private citizens responding to their own alarms, and that’s a dangerous situation.”