Dallas originally considered verified response for residential alarms as well, which is where the really big savings would come. But alarm companies rallied their customers to preserve the subsidy, and ultimately those companies and their customers convinced the City Council to reverse course on commercial alarms as well. Merten notes that the Dallas City Council repealed the program one week after Chief Kunkle gave them a presentation urging its continuation, and I was able to locate that briefing (pdf) online. Here are some of the data the Chief used at the time to argue for the program:
- In 2004 the Police Department received almost 62,000 burglar alarms
- Of these, 97.2% or about 60,100 were false
- Responding to these alarms required the time of approximately 45 Dallas Police officers
- This false alarm rate was consistent with findings across the nation
- In Dallas, 86% of the citizens and businesses without alarms are subsidizing alarm responses for 14% who have alarms
- False alarm dispatches are the single greatest waste of law enforcement resources in the U.S.
- 2004 police response time for priority 3 calls was about 32 minutes
But as Kunkle says, this is an instance where tuff-on-crime politics interferes with good public policy and common sense. The small minority being subsidized by police responses to alarms are extremely vocal and well-organized by alarm companies, who have lists with contact info of concerned customers that would be the envy of any political consultant. Plus, those with alarms almost by definition are relatively wealthier - after all, they got an alarm because they have stuff to steal - and therefore also more politically influential. By contrast, the 86% of Dallasites without burglar alarms who're footing most of the bill are unorganized, unaware of the subsidy, and may not even perceive they have a dog in the fight.
That calculus may and should change in an era of budget cuts and law-enforcement layoffs. Verified response would allow agencies to reduce their number of officers without reducing meaningful police coverage. And all the sky-is-falling rhetoric never seems to pan out as predicted in cities where verified response is implemented. I hear many, many politicians talk about cutting "waste" in government, so why are so many too cowardly to confront the "single greatest waste of law enforcement resources in the U.S."?