Alarm Verification: What you need to know

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In January and February of 2016, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) considered introducing an alarm verification bylaw as a result of the large number of false alarms they were responding to. These alarms, which required the attendance of at least one police car and two officers to the scene, took members of their force out of service for up to an hour or more.

In most situations, these false alarms were triggered by mundane issues, such as heating or air conditioning units causing signs to swing or move, mall cleaners setting off vibration alarms, or even mice running across floorboards.

As such, the TPS wanted to put a greater onus on business owners to ensure officers were responding to actual burglaries. To do this, they suggested that all alarms be verified as legitimate break-ins before police attendance was requested.

How does an alarm become “verified?”

In order for an alarm to legitimately require police intervention, a business owner must:

1. Contract a guard response company to respond on their behalf.

The guard response company reports back to a monitoring station in place of the owner. If a legitimate emergency (such as a break-in) has occurred, the monitoring station will contact the police. The guard must stay on-site until the police arrive—if the guard leaves, a false alarm fine could be levied against the monitoring station.

2. Have someone on-site to verify burglaries.

If a burglary occurs whilst the business owner or a staff member is on-site, this individual must contact the monitoring company themselves. The monitoring company is to then call police, and the person attending the site must stay until police arrive.

3. Activate a proper alarm system with video capabilities.

The best alarm systems are comprised of multiple devices. Those with video verification are the most effective, as they enable the monitoring company to view a video feed of any criminal events in progress. If an alarm is triggered, the monitoring station is to call police, who will most likely ask the owner to visit the scene, as well.

Possible implications

The main issue with verification bylaws is that the vast majority of jewellery and other business owners would have to respond to alarms themselves without any police protection. At three in the morning, this could be very dangerous. As a result, the TPS has decided not to activate the program at this time. However, police services in Alberta are seeking to activate a similar regulation in their areas.

Representatives of the Canadian Security Association (CANASA) are meeting with Police Services in Alberta to discuss the implications of these bylaws. It is hopeful that the organization will be successful in pointing out the possible dangers attached to these regulations. We can be certain other police services throughout Canada are looking at this as well.

Although JVC has concerns about these bylaws coming into effect at this time, alarm verification equipment is a good thing, especially for jewellers that carry very valuable merchandise. With the technology that is available today, this type of system does not need to be overly expensive. However, an alarm system that can hear what is taking place in a store, such as cases being smashed, or a camera system that is motion activated and can stream live events to a monitoring station are definitely beneficial.

Whether these bylaws are activated or not, taking charge of one’s own security and safety is a good thing and can give you greater peace of mind. An ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure.

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