The Wolfe returns

More than three years on this beat, and not once did Fremont’s biggest anti-tax advocate dial my number … until today.

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

“I sure do Mr. Wolfe,” I said to myself. “You’re the reason so many commenters on the Argus blog misspell Lew Wolff’s name.”

Wolfe is still pissed about the cops not responding to burglar alarms. And he’s ready to battle City Hall if it proposes another tax hike that doesn’t have an expiration date.

I’m going to fight that just as hard as I fought the other two, and I have the money to do it.

Anyway, in honor of Wolfe’s return, here’s a story from 2006, noting that he filed a lawsuit trying to stop the burglar alarm policy.


A year after Fremont police stopped responding to burglar alarms — unless they had independent confirmation that a home or business had been broken into — the department’s statistics show that burglary rates jumped 14.4 percent from the previous year. 

While that number is fueling an I-told-you-so attitude from critics of the controversial “verified response” policy, police say a year of statistics isn’t enough to draw conclusions. Also, other Bay Area cities saw similar, and even larger, jumps.


Fremont police say there were 854 burglaries in 2004, compared with 977 burglaries during the first 11 months of the program, which went into effect in March 2005.


“I know I’m biased, but I would give the policy a D, ” said Michael Salk, spokesman for the East Bay Alarm Association, which represents burglar alarm companies. “This isn’t the right solution. What they’ve needed to do is increase fines for alarm abusers to pay for more police. I felt this was predictable, and now we’re seeing it in the numbers.”


Fremont businessman Dennis Wolfe, who has filed a lawsuit alleging that the policy was approved without the proper public comment, agreed.


“The fact is, burglaries are up, ” he said. “I was never against this policy per se, but I think it could have been better developed. Why didn’t the chief simply say, ‘We will respond to all burglaries as resources permit and officers are available?’ This policy of not showing up just tells burglars in Fremont that no one’s coming. I think they just want us to feel fear, so that we’ll pass a new tax next year.”


Fremont police spokesman Bill Veteran said burglary is a cyclical crime. “Eleven months of stats aren’t enough to gauge anything, ” he said.


The FBI’s uniform crime statistics show that nationally, burglaries dropped by 1.1 percent, but increased almost 8 percent in Northern California in the first six months of 2005 compared with the first six months of 2004, the latest data available.


During the same period in San Jose, burglaries increased by almost 8.5 percent; in Santa Clara, by almost 17 percent, and in Sunnyvale, by almost 25 percent, the FBI data shows. In those three South Bay cities, police still respond to burglar alarms.


“Verified response” means that Fremont police show up when a burglar alarm goes off only if a security guard, video camera, neighbor or some third party verifies that a burglary has taken, or is taking, place. Police officials also say they respond to burglar alarms at high-risk businesses, such as gun shops.


Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler was out of town Friday and not available for comment.


In March 2005, Steckler said he implemented the policy because he was tired of sending officers to burglar alarms that were tripped accidentally.


Steckler said 7,000 burglar alarms went off in Fremont in 2004, and only 66 were legitimate. The nationwide average for false burglar alarms is between 90 percent and 95 percent. About two dozen other cities in the country also employ the verified response system.


Responding to alarms cost the Fremont department about $688,000 in 2004, said Steckler, who tallied the time it took two officers to show up at homes where the alarm typically went off by mistake.


There is no way to put a dollar figure on how much the department is recouping now, Veteran said. But he pointed out that police made 300 more arrests this year than last year.


“You could argue they’re out patrolling high-crime areas and making more arrests, ” Veteran said.


According to Fremont police statistics, burglaries have gone up or down depending on the year, and most burglaries are committed by men who are 15 to 25 years old, often during the summer.


In 2005, Fremont police say, there were 2.78 burglaries a day compared with 3.9 burglaries in 1995. The lowest number of burglaries in the past decade occurred in 2004, when there were 2.57 burglaries a day, and the highest number occurred in 1997, when there were 4.1 burglaries a day.


Matt Artz


  1. Responding to alarms cost the Fremont department about $688,000 in 2004, said Steckler, who tallied the time it took two officers to show up at homes where the alarm typically went off by mistake.

    Were they working for free while they were sleeping behind Lowes or 2 or 4 of them were gathered at 7-11 before these alarms went off?

  2. Fremonts Burgular Alarm policy is working. The police departments resources are strained because of a poor economy. This allows police officers to do there jobs instead of responding to false alarms.
    Many other municipallities have adopted the Fremont Burgular Alarm policy.
    Why people want to subsidize private industry with out tax dollars is beyond my understanding. The police work for the residences of Fremont, not Alarm compnnies

  3. I remember the gun shop was robbed right after Steckler’s policy went into effect. Sad. Here’s the quote from the article (Feb 4 2005 Argus article):
    “Thursday’s meeting came just a day after burglars tripped an alarm at an Irvington gun shop and made off with 32 firearms. The store owner publicly has blamed Steckler’s new policy for inviting crime into the city.”

    What are my tax dollars going to? It’s kind of upsetting that such a basic thing like burglar alarms are not being responded to…

  4. Audry,
    You need to read the policy, it states that a confirmed alarm will be responded to.

  5. California, okay. I just read it. Still, isn’t it kinda a sign that the policy failed if burglaries went up? Also why was the gun shop robbed right after the policy went into effect

  6. Thanks for the link FR. In a quick pass I noticed on Page 3 that one Police Officer made $200,830 in 2009 when his annual salary maximum was $111,693. He wasn’t even brass. Wowsers. That one heckofa lot of OT!

  7. Interesting Link, thanks FR. Wow a street maintenance worker makes more money than me, and I have a college degree from UC-Berkeley. haha. city employees seem pretty well-paid

  8. Ya’ll are jus’ union haters. It’s your duty to smack that sandwich out of your child’s mouth to feed the children of a public employee. Instead of trying to bring the wages down for everybody, why don’t you work to inflate the wages of everyone with money that doesn’t exist?

  9. The real irony here is that police departments across the country have found ways to deal with alarm issues without ending police response. Model ordinances are the preferred strategy throughout the United States. They produce more revenue for the city and curtail the number of police responses dramatically.
    Rather than the norm, verified response,is the exception. Residents of Fremont should be asking why they don’t have the same level of service that other cities have? The media should be asking the same question.

  10. Charlie and we do not have a Ball Park, is this your new issue.
    The Burgular Alarm policy is working. Charlie the tuna

  11. I’m confused. Why is it a better use of an officer’s time to respond to a burglary after someone has confirmed a crime has been commited? When our community looked into verified response we found that fewer than 30 departments in the entire country had adopted it as a policy. Instead our Mayor and city council backed a process of licensing, fees, multiple verification calls and other policies that reduce false alarm dispatches but maintained police response. The program generated revenue for the city that was used to hire more police officers. That makes a lot more sense to me.

  12. I disagree with the statement that police are working for an alarm company when they respond to an alarm. The police are working for the taxpayer who invested his or her money in trying to protect their property. Fremont’s policy isn’t the norm, it is the exception. Police department’s across the country have considered and rejected verified response when they learned there were better ways to conserve valuable police resources while at the same time protect the churches, schools, homes and businesses that utilized alarms to help fight crime and protect property. Don’t Fremont citizens deserve the same level of service that police departments in most other cities provide?

  13. Joe Citizen,
    What you are saying is that people who can afford alarm systems deserve better police protection then those who cannot afford it.
    You are saying that tax payers money should be used for subsidizing ptivate for profit Alarm companies.
    How about the Alarm companies hiring more security officers to handle there 98% false alarms.

  14. Californiaguy needs to get the point that those who can afford *and pay for* more – – – are entitled to do so.

    I believe this to be true in the realm of healthcare, it’s certainly true in the realm of legal protection, it’s true in the realm of how you pay your taxes (and how much), it is true in the realm of education (both public and private).

    At one level of personal expense, I can pay to put gas in my car and drive the public highways, OR, at another level of expense, I can charter an airplane and make use of the skies and publically financed airport facilities – – – all at incremental personal expense.

    And, so it goes that if you believe that incremental expense associated with an alarm buys you incremental security – knock yourselves out.

    BUT – that’s really not the issue here.

    What IS at the heart of this debate is that our community leaders have rationalized a curtailing of a service for reasons which, if scrutinized, do not pass muster.

    The most direct verification of this point is in the many examples of what other communities have done on this front and which our community continues to staunchly hold out as “not possible”.

    Less directly is evidence that suggests that just maybe we COULD do exactly the opposite, e.g., continue to provide a service AND MAKE MONEY DOING SO.

    For example – we’ve figured out how to bill someone for a VERY INEXPENSIVE parking ticket (which seemingly pays for the time and effort to not only BILL the ticket – but to hire and pay for the resources dedicated solely to ISSUE the ticket !)

    Amazingly, we still find the time and resource to chase citizens about their pet “licenses” and shots – – –

    We can do *these* things, but we CAN’T bill a false alarm and make it pay for itself ????

    Something doesn’t add up.

    I get your point that you see alarms as elitest or something. Which is an interesting perspective given that ours is widely accepted to be, a capitalistic society.

  15. This is a health discussion. First of cities throughout the United States are managing alarm issues without the problems that Fremont claims would result in restoring police response. There are reputable companies that outsource the registration and fines and send a check to the city with the money they collect. Other cities have no problem managing the process. Why isn’t Fremont following these same best practices? One city found that alarm registration fees and fines (all backed by the alarm industry)earned $1 million dollars a year for the city.

    All of us pay for city services we don’t use. I don’t have children in school but I pay school taxes and the cost of crossing guards and police officers at the schools. Almost every other city in the country still provides police response to alarms. Why can’t Fremont do it?

    Alarm owners throughout the country have backed registration fees and fines for false alarms. They are not looking for a free ride.

    Police set the priority for various calls. There are times alarm response may be very slow and there are times offices are available to respond.

    Finally, even verified response cities recommend people have alarm systems. It has been proven they reduce crime and that frees up police officers time and protects stores, schools, churches and homes. Fremont is clearly in the minority on this issue.

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