AIREF Survey Shows Broad Opposition to Verified Response
AIREF Announces Results of Independent Research in Salt Lake City
Irving, Texas, Sept. 19, 2006 – The Alarm Industry Research & Educational Foundation (AIREF) has announced the results of a first-of-its kind survey designed to assess citizens’ reactions to a “verified response” city ordinance. The study, released in Salt Lake City on Friday, shows 65 percent of registered voters in one of the first communities to adopt verified response disapprove of it and would vote for politicians who would change it.
The survey, conducted on behalf of AIREF by Bisconti Research, Inc, a full-service public opinion and communications research firm, found widespread disapproval of the city’s verified response ordinance that mandates police will only respond to burglar alarms if someone on the scene can verify criminal activity. Salt Lake City is one of a few cities that have adopted this “verified response” rule. The Salt Lake City ordinance took effect in December 2000.
Only 20 percent of registered voters surveyed were aware that the alarm ordinance existed, and only 28 percent were in favor. Those who strongly disapproved outnumbered those who strongly approved by a 4-to-1 margin, 33 percent to 8 percent.
The survey is the first to ask citizens in Salt Lake City their opinions about the verified response ordinance. Bisconti Research, Inc. interviewed 515 randomly selected registered voters in Salt Lake City by telephone in May 2006. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points.
“Our survey shows that 80 percent of Salt Lake City voters are concerned about crime in the city, so the idea that police respond to alarms only if someone at the scene can verify a crime caused concern among all demographic groups,” said Ann Stouffer Bisconti, president of Bisconti Research, Inc. “Business owners disapproved the most, with 77 percent reporting they were against the law.”
AIREF Advisory Board Chairman Peter Michel said, “This important research project should prove helpful to communities and police departments who are considering a verified response policy. We can now point to survey results that show how citizens in one large community feel after five years with this type of ordinance.”
Verified response was adopted to cut costs associated with false alarms. But registered voters (85 percent of those who gave an opinion) said that police should respond to alarm signals without waiting for a crime to be verified:
- 48 percent said that the police should respond regardless of whether the cost could be covered by permits and fines paid by alarm system users,
- 22 percent would require that police respond only if the cost could be covered by permits and fines,
- 12 percent believe that police should not be required to respond unless a crime is verified, and
- 18 percent were not sure.
In the next election, 60 percent would be inclined to vote for a political candidate who opposes the ordinance, while 20 percent would favor a candidate who wants to keep the ordinance and 21 percent were not sure. This 3-to-1 margin for anti-verified response candidates held true for Democrats, Republicans and independents.
Broader public knowledge of the ordinance would put Salt Lake City at a major disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining businesses. Among business owners with an opinion on the issue, 88 percent said they would choose to locate their business in a location that provided immediate police response; 12 percent held the opposite view.
Registered voters would choose to live and work in a city that provided immediate police response to burglar alarms versus a city with an ordinance like Salt Lake City’s by 68 percent to 12 percent.
“These survey findings suggest that the issue is ripe with negative implications for public confidence, voting behavior and the willingness of business and potential homeowners to locate in Salt Lake City,” said Bisconti.
“Reducing unnecessary dispatches of police is an important goal,” Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) and an AIREF ex-officio Advisory Board member said. “But there are other proven ways to accomplish this objective that don’t put public safety at risk.” Many communities without verified response ordinances have curtailed the number of police dispatches to alarms by up to 70 percent using alternative methods. Alarm registration, increased fines for false alarms, multiple-call verification and state-of-the-art security alarm panels all decrease the number of false alarms.
Enhanced Call Verification (ECV) – the practice of calling backup phone numbers so unnecessary dispatches can be greatly reduced – has proved successful across the country. “With the wide use of cellular telephones, alarm companies can usually reach subscribers and prevent dispatches,” said Martin. “This sensible approach puts public safety first; police respond unless a citizen confirms that the alarm is invalid. In some cases, there may be no one who is able to verify one way or the other.”
Today, more than five years after the implementation of the non-response ordinance, Salt Lake City’s burglary rate remains far above the national average, despite claims that verified response frees police time for more productive uses. In the survey, 78 percent believed burglars would be less likely to break in if they knew police responded to alarm systems.
A copy of the survey can be found at www.airef.org.
The Alarm Industry Research & Educational Foundation (AIREF)—a 501(c) 3 nonprofit foundation—was created in 1977 by the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association to serve as the research arm of the industry. AIREF's mission is to receive, invest, and reinvest money exclusively for charitable, scientific and educational purposes. Through research and education, AIREF provides resources and statistics that public safety officials use in their efforts to protect and serve the community. www.airef.org
About Biconti Research, Inc.
Ann Stouffer Bisconti, Ph.D. is President of Bisconti Research, Inc. (BRi). She is a nationally known expert on public opinion and communications research. She is a frequent public speaker and author of five books and many other publications. www.bisconti.com
SIAC is comprised of four major North American security associations – the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), the Canadian Security Association (CANASA), Security Industry Association (SIA), and Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), – and represents one voice for the alarm industry on alarm management issues. SIAC’s primary mission is to significantly reduce calls for service while strengthening the lines of communication with law enforcement professionals and end users. www.siacinc.org