Alarm ordinance watch
Police chief Dan Yancey is pleased that his city recently approved a false alarm ordinance, a project he'd been pushing for months. The ordinance, effective Nov. 1, is meant to reduce the number of human-caused false alarms. Yancey said that 99 percent of the 2,000 or so alarms transmitted to Owasso Police each year are false, wasting 10 percent of the department's time. The new ordinance will require alarm companies to register with both the city and Owasso police. Businesses and homeowners will be held responsible for their false alarm triggers, allowed two free false alarms, but on the third be subject to a suspension of alarm response services. Services can be reinstated if the alarm owner fixes the problem and then writes a letter to Owasso Police. The fourth false alarm will cost the alarm holder a fine of $100, the fifth $200, and the sixth $400 within a 12-month period. Yancey said he was surprised at how receptive alarm companies were to the newly required permit, hoping to become more efficient in alarm response. "It's something that I didn't realize," said Yancey, "but actually they welcomed the ordinance as much as we did."
Effective Oct. 1, residents and businesses here must obtain a free alarm system permit or pay a $100 fine. The Marietta Police Department reports that, in 2006, they responded to 9,137 alarm calls with two officers. Of those alarms, 98.6 percent were false, resulting in 3,882 man-hours, or $135,872, wasted. The new ordinance requires alarm users to respond to the alarm within 30 minutes of notification, and that the alarm companies maintain current contact information on their clients, including their user-permit numbers. The first two false alarms will be free, but alarms three through six will cost $50, alarms six through seven will cost $100, alarms eight through nine will cost $250, and 10 or more alarms will cost $500. However, alarm owners may attend an "Alarm User Awareness Class" in lieu of one penalty.
Blue Hill, Maine
City councilmen here protested a $60 bill from the Hancock County Sheriff's Office for a false alarm at the town hall on June 24. The false alarm ordinance was adopted in June 1982 and allowed for one free false alarm each year, but was discontinued because the city felt it "undermined efforts to make customers more responsible." John Bannister, Chairman of the Selectboard, said it's unfair to charge citizens on the first offense. He said a substantial change in the existing ordinance would never occur because it is under the Sheriff Department's jurisdiction. Bannister said he fears that citizens will take matters into their own hands and confront a potential burglar to avoid paying a $60 fine. "I already do it with my own business," said Bannister. "I put a little gun on my waist and at 1 [a.m.] or 2 [a.m.] open up the store and look around. Someday I'm going to be nervous, and am I going to end up shooting a kid?" A final motion was made and approved to pay the bill in September.