False Alarm, True Concern

by Greg on May 27, 2009

There’s nothing like pulling into the driveway and seeing a police officer approach you with his hand on his holster. Not knowing if he came from the school of “shoot first, ask questions later”, I put on a big smile and all but frolicked out of my car.

Me waving like a giddy little schoolgirl: Hi there!
Him cautious: Can I help you?
Me curious: Uh, yeah, this is my house.
Him suspicious: You say this is YOUR house?
Me making sure: Yes…this is my house…is something wrong?
Him suspicious: Can I see some ID?

[I handed over my license which shares the same address as the driveway we were standing in. He confirmed with dispatch that I was warrant-free.]

Him questioning: Is anyone inside?
Me nervous: My wife and baby. I just hung up with her, why?
Him annoyed: Your alarm signaled a break-in.
Me confused: That was two hours ago.
Him more annoyed: Well…I was the only one able to respond and they pulled me off an accident for this.

I explained that the alarm was triggered when our daughter dropped a book on the tile and set off the glass break sensors. My wife gave our super secret password to the alarm company when they called so we figured the alert was called off.

Apparently, the alarm company rep didn’t see our password and assumed we weren’t supposed to have one. So when my wife gave a password, he did the right thing and called the police.

I don’t have a problem with the alarm company working on the side of caution. What I’m concerned about is a 2 hour response time to a break-in alarm. Why have an alarm system at all?! Two hours? Seriously?

trouble

It Ain’t Hollywood
I’m sure you’ve seen those movies where a bunch of brazen bank robbers fire AK-47’s into the ceiling to commence their cash grab. Someone is always clutching a stopwatch and shouting out…”ALARM SOUNDED…WE HAVE 90 SECONDS!” Cue to the scene where they hustle and bustle through the lobby filling their sacks before exiting in a flash.

Quite a different story if someone ever robs our home.

“ALARM SOUNDED…WE HAVE TWO HOURS!” Cue to the scene where guys slowly roll a dolly off a moving van and saunter into the house. They jot down a wish list on their clipboards and then slowly drag all of our possessions through the front door. They feed our cats and then sit to enjoy a sandwich while washing it down with a cold coca-cola. Maybe even time for a swim. They yawn, stroll to the truck, and pull out of the driveway with barely an hour to spare.

Neighborhood Watch(ers)
After the officer realized that this was just one big misunderstanding with the alarm company, he reiterated how he was pulled off an accident by his superior and “hopes the guy is okay”.

Gee…thanks for the guilt trip! Turns out he was on traffic duty winding cars around cones but he made us feel like we pulled him away from operating the Jaws of Life or something.

Then he explained that he would have gotten here faster but he was “stuck behind a mobile home being moved through town”. Um…excuse me…but those flashy things on top of your car…might those come in handy in a situation like this?

As we stood on the front porch listening to the obstacles he faced getting to our home, we noticed that neighbors were driving by reallllll slow. Some more than once. It was then that I shifted to my “Innocent Pose”. If any of you have ever been outside speaking with the police then you probably know about the Innocent Pose.

This is where you stand as casually as possible, almost TOO casually, so that your body language communicates to the world that you’re not under arrest and just enjoying a kickin’ conversation. You laugh at anything and everything. You talk with your hands so everyone can clearly see that you aren’t cuffed. You give the officer a noogie. These kinds of things.

nwatchWe got a call later that night from a neighbor who said they were thinking of starting up a Neighborhood Watch and wanted to log any police activity in the neighborhood. Hmmm. Sounds like a clever snoop tactic, but I’ll bite.

I explained that I let the hostages go and that the charges will be dropped if I keep my ankle bracelet on.

After a nice awkward pause I shared the story of the false alarm and we said our goodbyes.

We still haven’t heard anything on this Neighborhood Watch dealio, and I doubt we will, but I do take solace that everyone is nosy. At least a moving van in our driveway won’t go unnoticed.

But I Digress
The police officer was a nice enough guy and he even gave us some stickers to give to our son. I poke fun at the situation, but understand that I wouldn’t trade places with him for the world. These guys agree to put their lives on the line every day and I’m very appreciative of this. I also understand that false alarms have got to be frustrating and I’m sure when a call goes out to investigate a home alarm that the call is met with groans and often-met expectations of a wasted trip.

Our alarm company, Cry Wolf Security (sic), assures us that urgency is priority one. I just hope that’s the case when we really need them!

{ 7 comments }

Jeanine May 22, 2009 at 1:08 am

Oh my goodness! That is hilarious! So glad that it wasn't anything serious though. Great writing. 🙂

Lorzers May 26, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Thats too funny. I love the cartoon.

Lisa @ Crazy Adventu May 26, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Fabulously written! I sincerely hope they hustle should it NOT be a false alarm next time. Wow!

Cat @ 3 Kids and Us August 3, 2009 at 4:46 pm

I definitely see both sides to this, unfortunately police departments are so underfunded when it comes to shift staffing that you're lucky the wait time was ONLY two hours. Pretty sad huh?
.-= Cat @ 3 Kids and Us´s last blog ..Potty Corn Training =-.

Allison aka Misadven August 3, 2009 at 5:30 pm

You're lucky it was only two hours! We woke up one morning (several years ago) and found a drunk man sleeping on our couch (apparently someone dropped him off in front of our house the night before so he just picked the lock came in and slept on our couch) we called the police and it took them 3 hours to get there and then they didn't even charge the guy…craziness!
.-= Allison aka Misadventurous Mommy´s last blog ..Another winner! =-.

Karajeanne May 6, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I’m still wiping the tears from my eyes! You’re pretty fuzzin’ funny! I’d keep reading more, but I want to save more posts to read with my husband when he gets home!

VoiceOfReason August 27, 2011 at 3:10 pm

You said it in your own column. This isn’t Hollywood. Police officers don’t use their lights and sirens for every call. They have to follow regular traffic laws unless the call is a life threatening emergency.

However, a 2 hour response to a burglary alarm where there is confirmed to be someone inside who (as far as the police know) failed to give a correct password is unacceptable. In our agency, that is a higher priority call than an accident where fire and EMS take care of the accident victims. As far as we are concerned, that is not a false alarm.

False alarms are a thorn in the side of police agencies everywhere. They take officers off the street keeping them from handling real emergencies. They cost the taxpayers money, and the jeopardize citizens’ safety by reducing the availability of officers to respond to calls and just be present on the streets. Many cities have begun to require that if citizens want officers to respond to calls from their alarm company, they must purchase an alarm permit from the city. Additionally, they must pay fines for false alarms (usually allowed a few before fines begin.) Your situation, where someone was confirmed inside the residence and did not give a proper passcode (according to the alarm company) would get a police response regardless of a valid permit in our agency.

The phrase,”There’s never a cop around when you need one” is largely true due mainly to false residential burglary alarms. NOT because they are all at 7-11s or doughnut shops.

It’s difficult to place blame here – the alarm company should shoulder some responsibility because they didn’t recognize the proper password, but they are not responsible for the priority of the response. They call the police as soon as they receive an alarm call. It is up to the police department to determine the priority of their responses for each type of call. But if they are understaffed (or overbusy) they can’t dispatch an officer if they don’t have one. In our business, the phrase, “You can’t poop a cop” is a way to ease the conscience of new dispatchers who have calls holding that they can’t do anything about until an officer clears from a working call.

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