CAA fights Chico on ordinance

Ordinance requires false alarm fines for alarm companies
Monday, November 24, 2014

CHICO, Calif.—The California Alarm Association (CAA) and the Sacramento Area Alarm Association (SAAA) are filing a lawsuit against the city of Chico, Calif., after the city on Oct. 21 unanimously passed an ordinance that fines alarm companies for false alarms.

“Here’s the bottom line: Innocent parties are being fined for the conduct of others that’s beyond their control, and that’s the core of why we have to fight this, and we can’t allow this to take place anywhere.” Jon Sargent, past president of CAA, told Security Systems News.

The ordinance fines alarm companies for false alarms, starting at $100 and gradually rising to $400 for repeated alarms. There is also a $30 fee for cancelled alarms.

“Chico’s new ordinance will do nothing to stem incidents of false alarm activations,” Jay Hauhn, president of Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), said in a prepared statement.

While CSAA and CAA oppose this ordinance, others believe this to be a positive step for the industry.

“I support fining the alarm company. Let the alarm company pass on those fines to the customer or terminate their service for recurring abusive customers,” Leo Weiss, CEO and owner of Eagle Security Systems in Chico, said in an email interview. Eagle Security Systems, established in 1979, manages 2,500 accounts.

“The alarm companies that don’t want to spend their time to track alarm history and discuss the possibilities for remedy most likely will suffer,” said Weiss.

Eagle Security Systems offers the option of armed guard response to its customers.

The ordinance also requires alarm companies to gain additional city licensing, something that Sargent says is “preempted by state law. They are not allowed under the California business and professions code to impose a special alarm company license and charge a fee.”

Weiss told SSN that he agrees with this additional fee, saying it is “just like any contractor pays a license fee to work in the city. The problem with alarm companies is that they drain so much of the city funds by dispatching on so many alarms—so they up the fee to operate in the city of Chico.”

In 2010, the city of Fontana, Calif., attempted to pass a similar ordinance. It was overturned, costing the city of Fontana over $350,000.

“Is it worth the cost of going to court over? That’s the issue that I think Chico needs to look at,” asks Dave Margulies, president of The Margulies Communications Group, working with CAA. “Even if they won, they’ve still spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and that’s taxpayer dollars out the door.”

“We, [SIAC], of course, stand ready to work with the city at any moment that they see the light and stop their current course of action and work with us cooperatively,” Sargent said, citing that SIAC has successfully worked with over 1,000 cities.

CAA and SAAA are working with attorneys Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp in this action.