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Security systems don’t guarantee immediate response

When a burglar alarm goes off in your home, you expect the alarm company to call the police right away. However, I learned that’s not always the case.

A Burien woman’s home was burglarized, and the alarm company called in another security company 40 minutes away before the cops were ever alerted.

Roslyn Prasad lost more than money when her Burien home was burglarized.

“I was heartbroken that my house was broken into,” recalled Prasad. “Stuff my parents had given to me is gone. I have no memories of them left.”

Now Prasad’s anger has turned toward her security company, ADT.

“It took ADT’s patrol company 45 minutes to respond to my call,” explained Prasad.

What happened to Prasad is called Verified Response. It’s the law in Burien. ADT and every other security company has to call another security company to check out the property before contacting the Burien Police Department.

“Verified Response is a system through which the police require a verification, when an alarm goes off, say at somebody’s house, somebody’s business that there is an intruder,” explained Katie Trefry with the city of Burien.

According to the police report, Prasad’s home was burglarized at 12:30 in the afternoon. The security officer told police he arrived 40 minutes later from Auburn. That’s when the burglary was verified and the officer called the cops, who arrived immediately. Despite this timetable, Trefry defends Verified Response.

“Before Verified Response we were answering a lot of false alarms to the rate of 95 percent of the calls we would get would be false alarms. That police resource is now in the community to help prevent crime, to catch suspicious behavior before it becomes a break-in and to serve the community better overall,” said Trefry.

Steve Sully from Washington Alarm said a handful of cities across the country have ditched Verified Response.

“The industry by and large does not support a verified alarm response. Verified Response is really a euphemism for no response,” said Sully.

Even the city of Seattle has a version of Verified Response. So how do you get the police to respond faster? Get a video system monitored by you or a security company because video evidence of a break-in moves your call up from a low priority-three call for a basic alarm.

“Because it’s a human checking it out, the security company checking it out, it’s going to be a level-one priority call,” explained Trefry.

But that extra security comes with a cost. Prasad’s system runs around $40-$50 a month. A monitored system is between $75-$125. ADT did not respond to my multiple requests for the time it takes the security companies it uses to arrive at homes with active alarms.

Burien has had more burglaries in the past five years than Shoreline and Sammamish, but the city said the numbers do not tell the entire story.

The number of burglaries in Burien have dropped from 700 in 2013 to around 600 last year. Just to be clear, ADT is like all the other alarm companies — they have to abide by the city’s laws regarding Verified Response.

Bellingham, Yakima and Burien are the only Washington cities that require Verified Response. Seattle and almost everyone else uses an enhanced-call program so the alarm company calls two numbers of your choosing before dispatching the cops.

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