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Judge Rejects Bid to Block Alarm Policy

Times Staff Writer

A judge denied a bid Thursday by a group of alarm companies for an injunction to block a new Los Angeles Police Department policy that would end police response to unverified burglar alarms.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David A. Jaffe rejected the Greater Los Angeles Security Alarm Assn.'s arguments that the policy approved by the Board of Police Commissioners in January violates a city ordinance on alarms, state law and a requirement that neighborhood advisory councils be given advance notice of such decisions.

Jaffe said there is nothing in state law or the city ordinance that requires police response. The city ordinance “is silent on the question of when the Police Department is obligated to send a unit in response to a burglar alarm,” Jaffe wrote.

Lawyers for the alarm companies argued that department policy requiring visual verification was out of step with the city ordinance that requires alarm companies try to contact an alarm site by telephone before calling police.

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“This ignores what alarm users want,” said George Gunning of U.S. Alarm Systems Inc. and former president of the California Alarm Assn.

Arthur Fine, an attorney for the alarm companies, said the group will wait for the Police Commission to review the issue Tuesday. A task force impaneled by the Los Angeles City Council has recommended that verification be required only at locations that have experienced three false alarms in one year.

Police Commission President Rick Caruso said he was pleased with the ruling.

The commission voted Jan. 7 to stop dispatching officers to unverified alarms. Chief William J. Bratton argued that 92% of burglar alarm calls last year were false.

Several council members, led by Janice Hahn, objected but failed to muster the votes for a veto. Instead, the council formed a task force that recommended stiffer fines each time police are dispatched on a false or mistakenly tripped alarm.

For more than a decade, the LAPD has complained about wasted hours in responding to false alarms.

Fine argued that the Police Commission decision violates a city ordinance requiring neighborhood advisory councils to be notified in advance. Jaffe held that lack of communication was not a reason to invalidate the policy.

Police officers at present treat burglar alarms as non-priority calls and are allowed an hour to respond. That policy was adopted in 1998 after a similar attempt to restrict alarm response failed.

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Times staff writer Jean Guccione contributed to this report.


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