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Police attribute fewer false alarms to new policy

For the first time in 14 years, Modesto police have seen a reduction in false alarms.

A change in department policy has reduced the number of false alarms by about 90 percent since its implementation in November compared with the two months prior, department officials said.

Lt. Gary Watts said the "dramatic decline" is due to the department's verified response dispatch policy.

Police no longer respond to burglar alarms unless they have been verified as real emergencies. The alarms must be verified through the use of onsite audio or video equipment, or by a private security service.

If no additional information is received to verify the alarm, the call is entered as "be on the lookout" and officers will respond at their discretion as time allows.

Watts said the new policy has relieved officers of the frustration of having to respond to about 800 to 850 false alarms each month.

"We, as cops, were frustrated by having to look at the big waiting list of calls, just as much as the citizens were having to wait," Watts said.

"Now, they're out responding to legitimate calls."

Department officials are still gathering data on the policy change, but said they expect the trend to continue for the rest of the year.

Police will present a report to the City Council on the results of the response policy six months and 12 months after its implementation. The policy change went into effect Nov. 1.

The dispatch policy does not affect police response to panic, robbery, duress, or other types of hold-up alarms.

Watts said these alarms will continue to be treated as high priority.

Some false alarms have gotten through even with the new response policy.

"But it's certainly not like before," Watts said.

He said several critics of the new policy predicted gloom-and-doom scenarios in which the number of burglaries would climb dramatically.

There was a 9 percent increase in the number of burglaries, from 177 in December 2005 to 193 in December 2006, according to Modesto police.

"But we haven't seen a huge boom in the amount of burglaries," Watts said. "I think it has actually helped security companies respond faster to burglaries."

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