Alarming Discovery

Let me pose a scenario to you. Assume one day while my wife and I are away, several thousand, heavily armed, Cuban soldiers parachute into our back yard intent on using our house as a foothold for their invasion of the continental United States. The soldiers are a little lightheaded from too many Cohibas, and as they enter our home, they trip our security alarm. What happens? Well, if we didn’t have a current alarm permit on file with the city, nothing would happen. The alarm company and the city would determine that no permit is in effect, and law enforcement would not be dispatched. Within weeks we’d all be loaded into circa 1950 automobiles and locked up in camps where they force us to dance the guaguancó and drink Cuba Libres.

Yes, you read that right. No $25 permit, no cops. Think I’m exaggerating? Last month a shoe store in our city had an alarm go off. When the alarm company called the city, the employee accidentally transposed two digits of the permit number. The city declared the permit invalid and did not respond. When the alarm triggered a second time, the store owner called her alarm company and was told that due to her invalid permit she would need to investigate the issue herself. She did and didn’t see anything wrong. The next morning, she discovered that her store had been burglarized. Today, she assumes that the thieves were hiding inside the store when she did her inspection. Now instead of a stranger in a store infiltrated by an international shoe burglary ring, imagine that was you in your house with a hidden Hillside Strangler or Justin Bieber.

It seemed unbelievable to me, so I called both city information and my alarm company to find out more. I posed the Cuban Invasion scenario to both parties and asked what would happen. First, it turns out that neither the employees at my alarm company nor those at the city seem to remember the movie Red Dawn (If you are female or under the age of 35, click here to learn what Red Dawn is). Second, the answer was the same. No permit, no response. They also both implied that I should not drink so early in the day.

I get why the rule is what it is. The $25 fee is there to make the city money. If you could get police protection without paying the fee, many would not pay in advance despite being legally required to do so. But is no response to an alarm really the best strategy for maximizing public safety? They already impose fines when they respond to false alarms, so this isn’t about cutting down on wasted resources. Why not impose a fine for rolling on a house that has no permit? Make the penalty so painful, like a $50,000 fine and a week of guaguancó lessons, that no one would risk it. Consumers have the option of having their alarm company collect the fee, so why not make that mandatory? You could even allow the security company collect $26 and only pay the city $25 to offset their administrative costs.

This week, my permit bill arrived from the city. It was the first check I wrote, and I walked the envelope straight to the post box. Think how embarrassed I’d feel if after years of battling to repel foreign invaders, the news reported that the entire war could have been avoided had William Mosher of Denver, Colorado simply remembered to keep a current alarm permit. I would not be able to handle that loss of life on my conscience, and besides, I’m a terrible dancer and too many Cuba Libres can cause a killer hangover. I’m not going to risk it.

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