We were tipped off about this story by people who work in the alarm industry. In our two month investigation, we checked and double checked to see exactly who may be breaking the law and then notified the DPS, who then launched its own investigation.
Would you want a potential criminal installing an alarm system inside your home or business? "If you're going to do a security system at a bank and you're going to secure millions of dollars they want to make sure you're not an ex-con that's robbed banks in the past," said Nick Hearn, a licensed alarm installer in Lubbock.
Hearn says there's a reason consumers should want to know if the person they're hiring is licensed by the state. "You want the people to be trustworthy that's going to be in your house," he said.
Lieutenant RenEarl Bowie with the DPS Private Security Bureau says when a person or company is licensed; it means they have gone through an extensive criminal background check. "Operating without a license is a criminal offense under the Texas Occupations code 1702," said Bowie.
Its information you can find through your own computer at home. Here's how we did it, we took the names of about 34 alarm companies we found in the yellow pages. We searched for their license on the DPS's web site.
During our two month investigation, we found many potentially breaking the law. One of those alarm companies is Express Wireless. Their license expired in February and shouldn't be installing alarm systems, so we called to ask.
The man at Express Wireless said they didn't have anybody licensed to put in an alarm system, but told us "they may be able to find someone to do it for them." However, if you're thumbing through the yellow pages looking for an alarm company, Express Wireless has an ad in the current 2007-2008 Feist phone book. It says they do residential and commercial burglar alarms. DPS says it's against the law to even be soliciting business with an expired license.
"That is true. They have to have their license number inside their place of business (as well,) said Bowie.
We have just learned that Express Wireless is now in the process of renewing their license.
Our investigation led us to four more companies. We were able to talk to workers at Dynamic POS Solutions and Premier Auto and Sound. They told us they don't install alarm systems, just the video equipment and said they didn't need a license to do that. However the state says they do.
We did hear back from Minc Digital who is trying to correct the problem. The owner told us in an e-mail, he is no longer accepting new customers because he's trying to get out of the business. He wrote: "I was informed that since I still occasionally provide some maintenance services for previous clients, I am required to maintain a license. As of Friday (7-27-07), I have applied for licensing in order to comply with state requirements."
The state says they will bring a case against Minc Digital, as well as Caprock Alarm and Detection. Caprock told us they don't do security systems, just commercial fire alarms. But the state says they have proof this company was installing security systems with no license.
Lt. Bowie was unaware so many companies in Lubbock were operating without a license or with an expired license. "Our closest investigator to the Lubbock area is stationed in Midland. And the other is stationed in El Paso. Sometimes the information that we do get comes from sources like you, the media," said Bowie.
Since we started this investigation, Sentury Associates renewed their expired license and Security Concepts of West Texas renewed their insurance, which is also a state requirement.
Bowie says if a company or individual gets caught without a license, the fine can be as much as $4,000, plus a maximum fee of $3,000 for each job done on an expired license.
We are not saying any of these companies we mentioned hired criminals to work for them. But to make sure, it's a good idea to make sure they're licensed which means they've had a criminal background check.
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|NewsChannel 11 Investigates|