Neighbour Hood Support

What to do when you hear a burglar alarm

When responding to an audible burglar or intruder alarm in your neighbourhood, your safety and the safety of any members of the public in the vicinity must be your number one priority. If the alarm is genuine there may be intruders within or leaving the house or building who may react violently towards witnesses or anyone who attempts to get in their way. Any intruders could be armed or they might flee the house or building in a physically violent manner or perhaps try and hi-jack a vehicle to escape more quickly.

Be prepared - know what to do

1. Identify the source of the alarm and observe the address for a few moments if you have a line of sight from your home or other place you are observing from.

2. If you see suspicious activity such as unfamiliar persons loitering or carrying property from the house or building, strange vehicles or hear the sound of glass breaking, dial 111 immediately and write down what you see, particularly descriptions of persons and vehicles and the direction of travel if they leave. See the fact sheets on giving a good description and when to call 111. The Police may ask you to continue to observe and tell them what is happening while they are on their way, but unless the Police ask to meet and speak with you as a witness it is best to stay out of the way at a safe distance.

3. If there is no suspicious activity and you think the alarm is a false alarm, police still appreciate being told and having the opportunity to attend if they are able to. Call your nearest Police station You may decide to call the Police immediately or after some further observation. It really depends on the circumstances as you see them. If you are genuinely in doubt and uncomfortable about whether or not the alarm may be real it is best to immediately make a 111 call.

4. If the Police are unable to attend they may ask you if you are able to provide some more information or investigate and report back to them.

5. If you do not have a line of sight, telephone other members of your neighbourhood support group who may be closer and can see what is happening.

6. If there are no neighbourhood support group members at home close to the activation, consider approaching the address to observe and investigate. Whether it is safe to go closer will depend on the circumstances, such as time of day, what is happening in the street at the time and your personal health and fitness.

7. If you decide to investigate it is recommended for safety that this is done in pairs and others are aware of what you are doing.

8. If you see an offence committed the Police urge you to call them immediately on 111. The circumstances in which an offender can be detained by a member of the public are very limited. The Police do not advise citizens to unnecessarily place their safety at risk. Offenders may be armed and could inflict injury. See the fact sheet on citizen's arrest and self-defence.

9. If the address of the activation belongs to a member of your neighbourhood support group or someone you know, telephone them. If an intruder is present, an incoming call may give the impression the alarm is monitored and cause the intruder to leave immediately. If a householder has taken refuge in a secure room with a telephone you may achieve direct contact with the householder.

10. If you consider it safe to do so, conduct an external inspection for signs of forced entry. If you see an open window or door, which may have been used by an offender to gain entry, do not go inside. The offender could still be present and pose a threat to your safety. Entering the house could also be detrimental to crime scene investigation, particularly with regard to fingerprint evidence. However, this guideline might not be applicable if an occupant is at home and calling out for assistance. Your action will depend on the circumstances. Making noise so an offender is aware assistance is at hand may cause the offender to flee and make physical intervention unnecessary.

11. In situations where offenders are present or have fled the scene, care should be taken as far as possible to avoid contaminating the immediate area and preventing Police dogs from obtaining a scent to track or mistaking you for an offender.

12. When checking an activation it is a good idea to carry a mobile phone if available and also a torch if at night.

13. Contact the owner or keyholder if details are known. If no sign of entry leave a note in the letterbox for the information of the owner. Some types of alarms may reset without the owner noticing an activation and the system may require checking by a technician.

14. There may be a sign attached to the house or building naming the security company that provides alarm monitoring and can be contacted for an after-hours call-out. This information will assist the Police when you call them or report back to them. If the alarm is monitored, a security patrol will have been dispatched and the monitoring company will have advised the Police that they are attending.

15. An active neighbourhood support group will encourage people to notify neighbours when going away for an extended period and make provision for access to keys and alarm codes, or a keyholder. See the fact sheet on the ideal neighbourhood support group.

16. A faulty alarm can be a nuisance to neighbours, especially if a time limiter is not fitted. Some Councils have bylaws that stipulate the maximum time that an alarm may sound and or that an alarm should not reactivate unless manually reset.

17. Many Councils have enforcement officers who can take action under the Resource Management Act 1991 to control excessive noise from faulty alarms that continually annoy neighbours. This can include de-activating a faulty alarm.

18. Neighbourhood support group members should lead by example and have a reliable burglar alarm that is regularly serviced. See the fact sheet on home burglar alarms.



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