At approximately 11:10 a.m. on Jan. 14, a security alarm for the Bassett Drive home of Staff Sgt. David Dunlap and his wife Whitney Butler was triggered, the Colorado Springs Police Department has confirmed. An officer was not dispatched in response to the alarm.
Fifty minutes later, CSPD responded to the address for shots fired. Dunlap and Butler had been killed as they entered their home. Macyo January, a 17-year-old, has since been charged with the murders.
Sarah Cohn, a spokeswoman with ADT, says that when an alarm goes off, an ADT monitoring center is alerted. An ADT agent will contact the owner of the property as well as the first responders, which, in this instance, is the CSPD.
Barbara Miller, spokeswoman with CSPD, says the department is guided by a 2006 alarm-calls policy.
"In order to reduce the number of False Alarms our officers were responding to on a daily basis, a 'priority' based system was implemented," Miller writes in an e-mail. "This is standard for law enforcement agencies across the country."
According to Miller, here's how the system works:
• Priority One represents a life threatening situation requiring an immediate response by police, fire or medical personnel. Examples include: Panic Alarm, Bank Robbery or a Sexual Assault in progress.
• Priority Two includes in-progress felony calls with potentially dangerous circumstances but without an apparent life threat. (Theft in progress, Check on the Well Being)
• Priority Three is used for minor incidents requiring a response that is dispatched based on availability of patrol units. (Burglar Alarm)
• Priority Four is generally reserved for administrative purposes. A response may or may not be required but the call requires documentation.
Miller notes that from Jan. 11 to 15, there were 128 alarm calls. Four were panic alarms, or human-activated. A full 98 percent were false alarms.
In 2012, there were 7,853 alarm calls for service. CSPD responded 5,249 times, and 96.8 percent were false alarms.
In 2011, there were 7,757 alarm calls for service. CSPD responded 5,280 times, and the false alarm rate was 98.3 percent.
Again, from Miller:
The city ordinance requires the alarm company to provide a license and permit number for the location in order for officers to be sent on a burglar alarm. However, officers will respond to ANY activation when there is evidence a crime has been committed, regardless of the alarm company being able to provide a license or permit number. (i.e., a responsible party is on scene and has told the alarm company there is a broken window at the residence or business. Another example would be an alarm service indicates they have video surveillance inside of the business and they can see someone inside of the location).
... residents who decide to have an alarm system installed in their home need to ask some important questions to understand the responsibilities of the alarm company. They should not assume that if their alarm is set off, there will be an immediate response from law enforcement. Many times, the alarm company will notify the owner that their house alarm has been activated. If that person returns to his/her home to check on the alarm, they must be extremely cautious and vigilant. For instance, if they notice a front door that might be slightly opened or a broken window or see a suspicious vehicle parked outside their home; we would strongly recommend that they call 9-1-1 so an officer can check for a possible burglary in progress or burglary that just occurred.