Case dismissed! Judge tosses charges against CS manager

Case could have set a precedent for false alarm calls to the police
Saturday, May 1, 2004

SALT LAKE CITY - A prosecution that had the potential to set off shockwaves within the alarm industry fizzled last month when a judge threw out criminal charges against a central station manager here.

On April 12, Judge Paul Iwasaki dismissed a providing false information to police charge against Jeff Howe of Peak Alarm after the prosecution presented its case, citing a lack of evidence to support the charge.

If he had been found guilty of the charge, Howe would have faced a fine of $650 and six months of probation, which could have led to the revocation of his license to work in the security industry, according to Peak Alarm President Jerry Howe, who is Jeff’s father.

Jerry Howe said while the potential penalty against his son had been reduced from the original six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine, the company was determined to fight the charges to the end because of the potential for similar cases to be filed in jurisdictions nationwide.

“These guys have pushed the industry around for so long that we’re not taking anything. Even if he wasn’t my son, we were going to fight this,” he said. “Someone needs to pay for the damage that has been done to the industry, and to Jeff Howe and Peak Alarm in this city.”

The charges against Jeff Howe stemmed from a July 2003 alarm at West High School in Salt Lake City. A school employee called Peak Alarm’s central station to report that two or three unauthorized people were in the building. Police initially refused to respond because the city’s ordinance requires that alarms be verified by a private security guard.

Howe called police back a few minutes later to report that a Peak security guard had verified the need for police response. However, according to Jerry Howe, Jeff had assumed it was a Peak guard who verified the alarm but in fact it was not. When police responded, they determined that the alarm had been false.

“Jeff apologized to the police for making that assumption at the time,” Jerry Howe said.

City Prosecutor Simarjit Gill, who handled the case, could be reached by the press time. However, he told the Deseret Morning News that the disposal of this case could lead to different handling of similar cases in the future.

“It may raise the question of whether we prosecute these types of cases,” Gill told the paper. The city has 30 days to file an appeal.

Shanna Werner, Salt Lake City’s alarm administrator, said the city will not file an appeal in the case, but will investigate a way to deal with similar situations in the future.

“We still have monitoring operators who call us to report a burglar alarm. When our police dispatcher informs them that we require an eyewitness, they change their story, saying they meant to say it was a panic alarm,” she said.

Even though the city doesn’t plan to appeal the ruling, Jerry Howe said his attorneys are reviewing their options at press time just to be safe.