False Burglar Alarms lead to a missallocation of police capital.
Overburdened by the costs and demands on personnel, many municipalities are developing penalties for frequent false alarms. The majority of burglar alarm activations are not by bad guys. False alarms account for 10 to 25 percent of all calls to the police. Each call usually requires the response of two officers for 20 minutes. In 2002, departments in the US responded to 39 million alarm calls, costing $1.9 billion.
The cost is not only financial. An officer's time on duty is a finite resource; false burglar alarms lead to a misallocation of police capital. Most of the burglar alarms are installed in affluent neighborhoods, but burglary rates are much higher in lower income areas. With the police clearing so many false alarms in suburban areas, urban areas are vulnerable to actual burglaries. Police spend their time where there is a high density of burglar alarms, not where there are a lot of burglars. This may be why, despite a huge up-tick in the installation of burglar alarms, the clearance rate for burglaries remains under 15 percent.
The problem is bad and is likely to get worse. Research into false burglar alarms is based on the approximately 32 million security alarm systems already installed in the United States.
The Law Enforcement Consolidation Task Force Civilianization Committee has given serious consideration of civilianization of certain sworn law enforcement positions within State Law Enforcement. Contracting, or the use of non-sworn personnel within a law enforcement agency, is a growing nationwide trend to address ever tightening budgetary constraints and the need to increase the number of sworn officers on the front lines.