Austin police respond to 80 burglar alarms daily. Nine out of 10 are false, reports the Austin American-Statesman. The high rate of false alarms — most commonly the result of equipment failure or user error — isn't unusual. Industrywide, false alarm rates of 90 to 99 percent are common. Large municipal police forces complain that answering tens of thousands of unnecessary calls to check out alarms installed by private companies drains manpower and diverts attention from more serious policing — such as genuine burglaries, which are reported 20 times a day in Austin.
Police rarely catch criminals thanks to an alarm. Last year saw an increase in both the number of alarms and percentage that were false. In some parts of the city, especially well-to-do residential neighborhoods, false alarms demanded more police attention than everything except traffic stops. Many customers believe alarms monitored by private companies, which can cost $100 a month, help nab crooks. “Somehow, the idea has been planted in their heads that we're going to beam down Star Trek-like and catch the burglar,” said Shanna Werner, alarm coordinator for Salt Lake City. In truth, most burglars are in and out in minutes.