Arlington police chief wants city to study outsourcing responses to burglar alarm calls

ARLINGTON -- In an effort to save the city money and police officers time, Arlington Police Chief Theron Bowman wants the city to explore whether it is more cost-effective for private security guards to respond to residential burglar alarms.

On Tuesday, Bowman asked the City Council for approval to draft a request for proposals to see whether private companies that monitor burglar alarms would be interested in responding to the city's 15,000 calls a year.

Though the council agreed to see what the market has to offer, some members said at the afternoon work session that they have serious concerns.

"I only want police officers, period. It's non-negotiable for me. Security guards are no substitute," said Councilman Robert Rivera, who represents southeast Arlington.

Outsourcing responses to burglar alarms is among $4.8 million in cost-cutting measures -- including job cuts, reduced library hours, and scaled-back parks and recreation services -- that the city is considering if sales and property tax revenues don't improve.

Arlington spends roughly $1.8 million a year responding to burglar alarm calls, 99.7 percent of which are false, Bowman said.

That's equivalent to the cost of 21 police officers.

Of all the alarm calls in the past year, Arlington police have made only one arrest at a scene, he said.

The city is also considering raising its $50 annual burglar alarm permit fee for property owners who have more than three false alarms in a year.

Arlington receives about $1 million in alarm permit fees and false-alarm fines a year, Bowman said.

The Arlington Police Association opposes the idea of outsourcing burglar alarm response and is calling on its members to contact council members and "tell them no."

"This is privatizing the Police Department," association President Randle Meadows said.

"The citizens of Arlington have come to expect and deserve a response from their highly trained Police Department. City management in the past has tried to change this. Every time, the public has said no to someone other than police responding to calls for service."

The City Council is expected to officially vote on the issue Nov. 16.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639