The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

If you live in Los Angeles and think that a burglar alarm is all you need to keep your crib safe--think again. From here on out, LA's finest will not respond to a tripped alarm unless they get contacted with a confirmation on it from the property owner or a security firm.

Now, I can understand the police's problem. They get hundreds of false alarms and end up wasting time checking on them. So really, this solution makes a lot of sense.

Still... this ties into something that's been on my mind for a while. If you've seen any recent commercials for the home security company ADT, you'll see they follow a similar pattern: Somebody breaks into the house, the alarm goes off and scares the crook off, meanwhile the inhabitants are holed up in a room scared silly, and within seconds they get a call from the ADT monitoring service that serves to reassure them with an offer to notify the cops ("Thank you so much!" cries the frazzled lady).

What always struck me about this sequence was that, if you really pay attention, you'll see that the monitoring company didn't do SQUAT. I mean, the alarm doesn't have to be hooked up to a command central to be effective; it just has to go off when tripped, and be loud, in order to scare off the bad guy. And do you really need to have the security firm make the call to the cops? No. Even if somehow the robber cuts the house phone line, you can make the call yourself with a cellphone.

So, this begs the question: What does ADT really do? It's basically a scam. But perhaps an ominous one.

The thing that instantly comes to mind when watching one of these commercials is that ADT is positioned as a sort of clearinghouse for police notifications. In other words, the implication is that the cops will respond more quickly--or even will respond, period--when an authorized security firm makes the call. The further implication is that such a call is given greater weight than one from Mr. Joe Average, who doesn't have a security company behind him. I've always wondered if this would start a trend, where overworked and understaffed police departments would answer calls only made via security firms.

And so, this move by the LAPD really looks like the beginnings of this state of affairs. That's how I see it, anyway.