From LET Magazine October 2016
Portable Alarm Technology Can Expand Your Reach
As demand for law enforcement presence often exceeds human resources, or overtime budgets, agencies are finding new ways to leverage current staffing allocations through the use of technology, specifically through the use of portable alarms. Portable alarms, while not new technology, have been gaining popularity in recent years as they provide round-the-clock monitoring that can be easily deployed to provide instant notifications when a wireless sensor is triggered. With many of these alarms offering multiple notification methods, including two-way radios and phone, law enforcement agencies are aware within seconds that they are needed, without the constant allocation of manpower to any one situation.
Property crimes are an issue for every police department, whether it be car break-ins, metal theft, home and business burglaries, or vandalism. Portable alarms provide a useful tool in combating many of these crimes that police deal with on a daily basis.
Every day, a local house or business gets broken into and the owner wants peace of mind knowing that police have a prevention strategy in place. A portable alarm could be deployed using motion sensors, door/window contacts, or any other number of sensors to secure the location. Like a standard home security system, these sensors will trigger when a person enters the premises and will immediately contact law enforcement in the event of the break-in. In this instance, an alarm could be deployed over a weekend or even for a few months, without ever needing any police interaction. The alarm provides comfort to the owners, while not pulling law enforcement manpower away from other tasks.
The Cincinnati Police Department Homicide Unit uses portable alarms for securing residences, but with a slight twist. Cincinnati PD was having an issue with the residences of murder victims being compromised. As word spread through the community that someone was deceased, perpetrators would attempt to break into these houses and steal anything they could.
It became common practice to deploy a portable alarm at these locations to alert police if someone was attempting to enter the home. The deployment of these alarms led to multiple arrests, all without the need for stationing an officer in the area.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), metal theft in the U.S. spiked by 36 percent between 2011 and 2013, with 34,000 documented cases reported. During this time, portable alarms were a tool that was adopted across the country to battle the rising epidemic. Using the system, along with sensors such as tilt switches, pressure mats, and trip wires, departments were able to set up sting operations and apprehend criminals who were terrorizing businesses and home owners alike.
In Fayetteville, North Carolina, area electrical substations were being compromised repeatedly. Perpetrators would illegally enter the substation and remove copper wiring, causing thousands of dollars of damage to the power grid. Fayetteville police deployed a portable alarm at a local substation to attempt to catch the individuals. They set up a spool of copper on a pressure mat and attached a tilt switch as well, ensuring that they would be alerted if the copper were moved.
Over a weekend, the department was alerted that someone had broken into a substation yet again, and responded immediately. Within mere minutes, they arrived and caught the suspects loading the copper spool onto their truck. One of the suspects was a former employee of the substation who was recently fired and looking to exact revenge on the company.
Personal protection cases provide a unique challenge to law enforcement agencies across the country. How do you make someone feel safe, while still providing them with their own space and a semblance of a normal life? Using portable alarms allows an agency to provide individuals with a direct line to police at the push of a button. A unit can be set up at a person's home and a waterproof wireless button can be provided so that it can be worn 24 hours a day. The system allows the individual to move freely about their house, knowing that a simple button press will send a distress message over local police radio within seconds.
In Ohio police were tasked with providing protection for a state level politician who would receive death threats regularly. By providing this individual with a portable alarm, they were able to alleviate the need to station a unit at the residence, while still giving peace of mind that they would quickly respond if a crisis arose.
Domestic violence cases are another frequent issue faced by police departments. For years, portable/cellular phones were provided to victims to allow them to call 911 if another problem arose. The unfortunate truth is, even if the phone is within reach, the time it takes to dial, speak to a dispatcher, then send help, is time the person on the line doesn't always have. Portable alarms direct transmission to law enforcement radios, decrease the response time, and essentially act as a victim's lifeline, thus increasing the likelihood that the event can be resolved without injury to the victim.
In Maine the Penobscot County Sheriff's Department, along with surrounding municipalities, use portable alarms as a tool for dealing with domestic violence cases. Through the generosity of a local foundation, the Penobscot County Sheriff's Department has been able to acquire 15 portable alarms over the last several years, with plans to continue expanding their inventory each year. Former Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross points out their value, stating, "With two thirds of all homicides in Maine directly related to domestic violence, portable alarms are an invaluable tool to extend our policing presence, as well as our ability to protect those with protective orders."
In terms of portable alarm use for violent crimes, robbery tends to be the most common use. In many cases, portable alarms are deployed at pharmacies, gas stations or retail stores that are constantly getting robbed. By using predictive policing programs, potential targets are determined and systems can be set up to protect the potential victims. Providing the cashier, or associate, with a panic button, as well as a bill trap in the cash drawer, portable alarms allow officers to be immediately alerted to a situation in progress so they can respond accordingly.
Technology driven policing
Population growth and the expanding list of duties for law enforcement agencies increases the need for tools like portable alarms that can provide a unique way to stretch manpower, while still providing high quality policing work. Officers have limits on their ability to work long hours and remain completely focused, but portable alarms can work the 24/7 shifts without any implications. The sensors offered for portable alarms are constantly improving, opening up even more uses for these valuable policing tools. No matter what area of crime a department is dealing with, portable alarm technology can provide options to expand their reach and improve their response.