In practice, 90 percent or more of burglar alarms are false, and studies have estimated the related arrest rate at about 0.02 percent. No wonder law enforcement responds as a low priority, if at all. In contrast, a video-verified security alarm provides the virtual equivalent of an eye-witness to a crime in progress, and responding to video alarms yields arrest rates in the double digits – 20 percent or higher. That's a thousand times higher than non-video alarms.

The Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response (PPVAR) is a public/private partnership advocating the benefits of video alarms for insurance companies, law enforcement and security companies. Stakeholders in the battle against property crime are on the PPVAR board of directors, and the organisation is working with police and sheriff's departments throughout the United States to drive new standards and best practices. Members of PPVAR's Video Verification Committee include members of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department; Phoenix, Houston and Chicago police departments; and the Texas Police Chiefs Association.

Video alarms become more useful with improved technology

Technology innovation has increased the usefulness of video to verify burglar alarms. “Surveillance camera prices are coming down,” says Keith Jentoft, president of RSI Video Technologies, which makes the Videofied product line of video-verified intrusion alarms. Such devices are now comparable in price to “blind” PIR (passive infrared) sensors commonly used for security alarms. “The hardware costs are cheap, and installation is easy with battery-powered and wireless devices,” says Jentoft, “monitoring costs are the same.” Jentoft is the Partnership Liaison for PPVAR.

Getting the most benefit from technology improvements depends on police dispatchers modifying their practices to give higher priority to video-verified alarms, in effect communicating the increased value and urgency of video alarms to police officers in the field. Only then can improvements in arrest rates for property crimes be realised. Central monitoring stations must move video-verified alarms to the top of their queues. Police can then treat a verified security alarm as a crime in progress. For example, in Grand Prairie, Texas, the response time for video alarms is less than 2 minutes, versus a 15-minute response time for non-video alarms. The department is realising a double-digit increase in arrest rates as a result.

Effective action against property crime with verified video alarms

PPVAR is driving creation of best practices, defining what constitutes a video-verified alarm

Law enforcement resources are diminishing, so property crimes tend to take a back seat to crimes against persons. With limited resources, it is critical that time spent on property crimes yields arrests. Video-verified alarms increase a department's efficiency when investigating property crimes.

The insurance industry is active on the PPVAR board of directors, motivated by a shared desire to prevent property crime through more arrests – for insurers, one arrested burglar is the equivalent of 30 fewer claims. “Insurers want to have lower claims, cops want to make more arrests, and the alarm industry wants to see greater security,” says Jentoft.

Establishing best practices and standards

Greater implementation of best practices depends on evolution of standards and operating procedures for law enforcement. PPVAR is driving creation of best practices, defining what constitutes a video-verified alarm, what information is communicated to an emergency dispatch operator, formats for sharing video clips, etc. New standards will minimise false alarms and maximise arrests. Currently, there is a dearth of standards nationwide, and each police chief has typically set his or her own policy. A standardised policy could be easily adopted by individual departments, thus accelerating acceptance of video-verified alarms as higher priority calls. Involvement of police professionals in the standards-making process increases likelihood of widespread adoption of a uniform standard. Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which certifies central station standards, is also involved in PPVAR's standards initiative.

A free educational session at ISC West, April 3, 2014, in Las Vegas, NV, will feature law enforcement, insurers, and industry executives, available to provide information on how verified video alarms create stakeholder value.

Watch the Video Verification - How does it work? video to learn more.

PPVAR Partnership for Priority Video Alarm Response (PPVAR)
Download PDF version Download PDF version

Author profile

Larry Anderson Editor, &

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

In case you missed it

How should the security industry promote diversity?
How should the security industry promote diversity?

Diversity in a company’s workforce is arguably more important now than ever. Societal awareness of the importance of diversity has grown, and many people see diversity as an important factor that reflects positively (or negatively) on a company’s culture and image in the marketplace. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What should the security industry do to promote workplace diversity?

Why face recognition as a credential is the ideal choice for access control?
Why face recognition as a credential is the ideal choice for access control?

In the field of access control, face recognition has come a long way. Once considered too slow to authenticate people's identities and credentials in high traffic conditions, face recognition technology has evolved to become one of the quickest, most effective access control identity authentication solutions across all industries. Advancements in artificial intelligence and advanced neural network (ANN) technology from industry leaders like Intel have improved the accuracy and efficiency of face recognition. However, another reason the technology is gaining traction is due to the swiftly rising demand for touchless access control solutions that can help mitigate the spread of disease in public spaces. Effective for high volumes Face recognition eliminates security risks and is also virtually impossible to counterfeit Modern face recognition technology meets all the criteria for becoming the go-to solution for frictionless access control. It provides an accurate, non-invasive means of authenticating people's identities in high-traffic areas, including multi-tenant office buildings, industrial sites, and factories where multiple shifts per day are common. Typical electronic access control systems rely on people providing physical credentials, such as proximity cards, key fobs, or Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones, all of which can be misplaced, lost, or stolen. Face recognition eliminates these security risks and is also virtually impossible to counterfeit. Affordable biometric option Although there are other biometric tools available, face recognition offers significant advantages. Some technologies use hand geometry or iris scans, for example, but these options are generally slower and more expensive. This makes face recognition a natural application for day-to-day access control activities, including chronicling time and attendance for large workforces at construction sites, warehouses, and agricultural and mining operations. In addition to verifying personal credentials, face recognition can also identify whether an individual is wearing a facial covering in compliance with government or corporate mandates regarding health safety protocols. Beyond securing physical locations, face recognition can also be used to manage access to computers, as well as specialised equipment and devices. Overcoming challenges with AI So how did face recognition become so reliable when the technology was once dogged by many challenges, including difficulties with camera angles, certain types of facial expressions, and diverse lighting conditions? Thanks to the emergence of so-called "convolutional" neural network-based algorithms, engineers have been able to overcome these roadblocks. SecurOS FaceX face recognition solution FaceX is powered by neural networks and machine learning which makes it capable of authenticating a wide range of faces One joint effort between New Jersey-based Intelligent Security Systems (ISS) and tech giant Intel has created the SecurOS FaceX face recognition solution. FaceX is powered by neural networks and machine learning which makes it capable of authenticating a wide range of faces and facial expressions, including those captured under changing light, at different resolution levels, and varying distances from the video camera. Secure video management system A common face recognition system deployment begins with IP video cameras that feed footage into a secure video management system connected to a video archive. When the software initially enrolls a person’s face, it creates a "digital descriptor" that is stored as a numeric code that will forever be associated with one identity. The system encrypts and stores these numeric codes in a SQL database. For the sake of convenience and cost savings, the video server CPU performs all neural network processes without requiring any special GPU cards. Unique digital identifiers The next step involves correlating faces captured in a video recording with their unique digital descriptors on file. The system can compare newly captured images against large databases of known individuals or faces captured from video streams. Face recognition technology can provide multi-factor authentication, searching watchlists for specific types of features, such as age, hair colour, gender, ethnicity, facial hair, glasses, headwear, and other identifying characteristics including bald spots. Robust encryption SED-compatible drives rely on dedicated chips that encrypt data with AES-128 or AES-256 To support privacy concerns, the entire system features an encrypted and secure login process that prevents unauthorized access to both the database and the archive. An additional layer of encryption is available through the use of Self-Encrypting Drives (SEDs) that hold video recordings and metadata. SED-compatible drives rely on dedicated chips that encrypt data with AES-128 or AES-256 (short for Advanced Encryption Standard). Anti-spoofing safeguards How do face recognition systems handle people who try to trick the system by wearing a costume mask or holding up a picture to hide their faces? FaceX from ISS, for example, includes anti-spoofing capabilities that essentially check for the "liveliness" of a given face. The algorithm can easily flag the flat, two-dimensional nature of a face mask, printed photo, or image on a mobile phone and issue a "spoof" alarm. Increased speed of entry Incorporating facial recognition into existing access control systems is straightforward and cost-effective Incorporating facial recognition into existing access control systems is straightforward and cost-effective. Systems can operate with off-the-shelf security cameras and computers. Users can also leverage existing infrastructure to maintain building aesthetics. A face recognition system can complete the process of detection and recognition in an instant, opening a door or turnstile in less than 500ms. Such efficiency can eliminate hours associated with security personnel checking and managing credentials manually. A vital tool Modern face recognition solutions are infinitely scalable to accommodate global enterprises. As a result, face recognition as a credential is increasingly being implemented for a wide range of applications that transcend traditional access control and physical security to include health safety and workforce management. All these capabilities make face recognition a natural, frictionless solution for managing access control, both in terms of performance and cost.

What are the challenges and benefits of mobile access control?
What are the challenges and benefits of mobile access control?

There is a broad appeal to the idea of using a smartphone or wearable device as a credential for physical access control systems. Smartphones already perform a range of tasks that extend beyond making a phone call. Shouldn’t opening the door at a workplace be among them? It’s a simple idea, but there are obstacles for the industry to get there from here. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the challenges and benefits of mobile access control solutions?