Alarm systems give many a false sense of security. They assume that an alarm triggers an automatic law enforcement response. This is an incorrect assumption. Here are a few headlines:

Burglar Alarms Cops Won’t Answer

“The LAPD is poised to join nine large other police departments nationwide – including Baltimore, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City – that do not respond to alarms unverified by a private security guard, a surveillance camera or a resident.”

Should Police Respond to Alarms? Police Response to Private Burglar Alarms Isn’t the Best Use of Public Law Enforcement Resources, Which Are Already Stretched Thin

“In response to the high rate of false burglar alarms at homes and businesses, law enforcement agencies around the country are adopting a policy commonly referred to as verified response. It means that criminal activity must be identified by either private security officers or through some type of electronic surveillance before police will dispatch personnel to the scene of an alarm. Since the vast majority of security systems cannot verify criminal incidents electronically, private security will generally be the source of the verification.”

The City of Milwaukee has an entire webpage dedicated to informing the public about alarm systems: Burglar Alarm Policy

Many cities globally are limiting the response to alarms that are activated by on-site security, or an approved third party.

“On September 19, 2004, the Verified Response Policy to burglar alarms was implemented by the Milwaukee Police Department. This means that the Milwaukee Police Department no longer responds to the report of a burglar alarm activation that is not first verified by a Private First Responder Service.”

“A private first responder is a security service or guard company, which is contracted by your selected alarm company to respond to your burglar alarm activation. As Private First Responder businesses are required to obtain a Private First Responder license from the city, the alarm company that you select should be able to tell you the name, location and phone number of the private first responder service that will be responding to your alarmed premise.”

From Toronto:

The Toronto Police Service will respond to an alarm signal provided the following is understood and agreed to:

the monitoring station is not suspended from requests for police responsethe alarm system is not suspended from police responsethe monitoring station has followed the approved verification processthe Toronto Police Service will not provide a response to alarm systems that have been communicated via an automatic dialing device and/or pre-recorded messagepolice response is determined by the nature of demand, priorities and resources available at the time of the request for police response.

From the UK: “The Police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will only respond to remotely monitored security systems that meet the requirements of the Policy.”

“n order to obtain police response in the UK, please be aware you need to use the services of a company holding approval as an installer and maintainer of intruder and hold-up alarm systems.”

Since many alarms are installed by residents or business owners, they may not be aware of these regulations and limitations. Few businesses, and fewer homeowners, have the financial ability to hire on-site security. This greatly diminishes the effectiveness of an alarm system.

In the modern age there is a modern solution. Secure, remote site back-up, sometimes referred to as “the cloud”. This means that even if your data storage system is stolen, you still have access to the data files. This information can be provided to law enforcement for investigative purposes.

This article is no form or fashion a complete guide to the regulations of your local municipality, but is to inform the general public of the limitations of DIY alarm systems.