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Burglar alarm response: avoiding danger

"Oh %%@@##!!, not another burglar alarm.!"

We've all said it. All working cops know that the vast majority of burglar alarms calls are false. The problem has become so bad that some jurisdictions are levying fines against owners with repeated alarm activations. And of course, any storm with hard rain or strong winds will surely get that dispatcher to call stack the residential alarm jobs.

Because they are so common, it is easy for responding officers and deputies to become complacent and forget that every once in a while, a burglar alarm is the real deal. This Weinblatt's Tips column gives you some suggestions of how to respond to alarms and avoid the dangers that can crop up. Yes, there really are dangers on an alarm call.

1) Turn off your radar. Here's a trick that I learned when I was a patrol division deputy with the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department in Santa Fe, New Mexico: turn the radar unit off. And I mean completely off (don't just leave it in standby mode). Some of those dishonest burglar types cheat. They use portable radar detectors to get some advanced "arriving cop" warning just when you are pulling up to the alarm area.

2) Turn off your headlights. If you can turn off your headlights and arrive safely in the area, do it. Safely means making sure that you don't drive into a fire hydrant or off the side of a mountain's dirt road.

3) Park up the road. Do not pull in front of the alarm call location. Instead, park several doors down. That means you should be familiar enough with the area to know the structure address numbers and approximately where your alarm is.

4) Observe the area. Take a moment to quietly close your patrol car door and observe. You may see or hear something as sit you on how to respond tactically to the situation.

5) Maintain radio contact. Keep your dispatcher advised of your location and status.

6) Use ear piece/headset. Avoid your radio blaring your presence to the burglar. Use an ear piece or tactical headset unit to low profile your presence. Even if your department will not provide it, it would be worth you shelling out your own dollars for this peace of mind.

7) Cover radio lights. Use black tape or other masking method to cover the blinking and solid color emitting lights on your portable radio. In the darkness, those small lights appear to grow and they make a convenient target for the bad guy.

8) Wait for backup. If your agency's policy and manpower situation allows you to wait for backup before entering the area, do so. Don't let your rush to get the call over with rush you into a coffin.

9) Minimize the shiny stuff. If your department allows you to, wear only leather or nylon gear that has blacked out or hidden snaps. Better yet, use Velcro fasteners. You want to minimize the use of reflective and noisy materials that would reveal your location.

10) Be alert. This one speaks for itself.

While building searches tend to excite police types, remember, most building searches started off as an activated alarm dispatch. Complacency is the real danger that should set off your own personal alarm.

Read more tips from Richard Weinblatt

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