Reducing False Alarms: An opportunity for police cost savings without sacrificing service

A properly installed alarm system provides enhanced safety and security. When misused, they become a liability and waste valuable police resources.

In 2013, Cleveland police received 30,610 alarm calls for service. In many cases, information provided by a property owner or alarm company negated the need to dispatch uniformed officers. However, in 2013, Cleveland police were required to respond to 23,890 of those 30,610 alarm calls for service.


To ensure officer safety, at least two uniformed officers are dispatched to every alarm call for service. A minimum of one, 2-officer, or two, 1-officer, cars respond to check and determine if a crime was in fact committed. Fortunately, for property owners, 97.5 percent of all alarm calls for service in 2013 were false. However, this means that valuable police resources are misused when handling unnecessary alarm calls for service.

The frequency of false alarms should be of a concern to us all. Nearly 1 in 10 police dispatches for service in 2013 were for an alarm call. Most were false, but when police respond to false alarms calls citizens with legitimate safety needs have to sit and wait. Most false alarms are caused by human error, improperly installed equipment, and sometimes extreme weather conditions – still many of these false alarms can be prevented by proper installation and use of an alarm system.

The problem with preventable false alarms is not unique to Cleveland. Law enforcement agencies across the country have struggled with this challenge, imposing fines for repeated false alarms and in some communities, refusing to respond unless the property owner or an alarm system guard calls to confirm a crime was committed.

During the next few months, I will be working with Cleveland City Council Safety Chairman Matt Zone, Safety Director Michael McGrath and others to develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce the frequency of false alarms. I’m confident that working together we can develop a solution that enhances community safety, reduces the cost of operations, makes the best use of our limited police resources, and meets the needs and expectations of the citizens of our community.

– Martin L. Flask, Executive Assistant to the Mayor for Special Projects