Police say they acted within procedure when not responding to burglary call



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Posted on November 8, 2012 at 6:55 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 8 at 7:51 PM

FORT WORTH -- The owner of a security store called police Sunday as he watched on his home monitor as a would-be burglar tried to smash into his shop. Fort Worth police refused to respond because the store's alarm permit had expired.

Police tell News 8 they followed policy, but there's more to the story, as the phone call from 4 a.m. Sunday reveals.

Caller: Uh, I think there's a break-in, because there's a ton of glass breaking.

Dispatcher: Okay. I'm just saying you have to have a permit or you have to be there.

"It's clear something's going on," said store owner Leroy Reber Thursday. "It's not a false call. And I called, not the alarm company."

Reber pleaded for help on the phone, as he watched the crime unfolding; a mini-van smashing into his store window over and over. The vehicle could not break through a steel gate behind the windows.

Dispatcher: Sir, you have to be at the location. We cannot dispatch the call.

Caller: Okay. Somebody could be getting hurt right there, and it don't matter? Go ahead and dispatch on that.

Dispatcher: I can't dispatch on that. I don't have a permit.

Although police say they followed procedures, a spokesman said Thursday officers would have been dispatched if Reber had only made it clear he was actually "watching" a burglary as it happened. He never said that. The dispatcher did not know she was speaking with an eye witness to a crime taking place.

That revelation does not change Reber's belief that officers should have responded. He said the dispatcher should have known because of the information he was giving her.

"Because, I mean, it's a break in," he said. "I said, 'Hey, my windows are broke. Somebody is breaking into my store right now.'"

Fort Worth enacted the no permit/no response policy in 2003 when police were wasting valuable time responding to more than 60,000 false alarms a year. Even with the new policy, records show nearly 26,000 false alarms last year. And about 16,000 alarm calls with no valid permit.

Reber said he's not going to press it, because insurance will cover most of the extensive damage. He said he thought he had renewed his permit months ago. He made sure he did it Thursday.

Ironically, Reber said he got into selling security systems because thieves kept breaking into his home electronics store.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com