False alarm ordinance watch

SSN Staff  - 
Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Fremont, Calif.

Fremont will be the first city in California to stop responding to burglar alarms unless the alarms are verified. The policy was implemented in February and will give police an opportunity to handle urgent calls quicker. The policy is estimated to save the city $600,000 a year in staff time and equipment costs, noted Fremont police.

Under the policy, police won’t respond to burglar alarms unless a resident, property owner or alarm company employee provides evidence that a crime occurred. However, officers will continue to respond to panic, duress and robbery alarms. Last year, more than 98 percent of Fremont’s 7,000 alarm calls were false, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

Lambertville, N.J.

The city council here will vote in February on a proposed ordinance that would raise fines for repetitive false alarms at commercial locations to $500. However, the proposal would not affect homeowners. Officials want to use the increased penalties to deter repeat false alarm offenders. In September of last year, 58 of 72 of the alarms relayed to the city fire department were false, reported The Beacon.

There is an option for the fine to be waived as long as a report from an alarm company is provided. The fine for the second false alarm would be $250, however each one after within a year’s time would exceed to a $500 fine.

Lexington, Ky.

City officials have teamed up with the Lexington police department to devise a plan to decrease false alarms. The council looked at charging a $15 dollar annual fee to each business and homeowner with an alarm system to reduce the number of false alarms. If passed, the proposed plan would impose a $25 fine after the fourth false alarm in a one-year period. A $100 penalty would be implemented for owners of unregistered alarm systems.

The police department plans to create a three-person false alarm reduction unit, which would register business and residential alarms in the city. They are also planing to have alarm companies verify alarms before calling the police, reported the Herald-Leader.

Milwaukee

Milwaukee police announced that the department is responding to 2,000 fewer calls per month since its verified burglar alarm response policy began in September. Officers are arriving at high-priority service calls at least three minutes faster compared to when the policy wasn’t in place.

The ordinance was created after the city noticed an upsurge of false alarms. More than 98 percent of burglar alarms reported turned out to be false. The false alarm costs grew to be $1.2 million per year each time an officer went to a false alarm scene, reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A council member proposed to charge the city’s estimated 50,000 alarm owners $70 each year for police response, which would cover the $1.2 million spent on false alarms and also help fund the police department's 174 vacancies. But police said the verification policy has been successful in the city so far.

Mount Vernon, Ohio

The city council here is eyeing a proposal to increase fines for property owners who report false fire alarms. The fines could increase to $250 per incident from $25.

The false alarm fine increase is to encourage residents and business owners to maintain and repair alarm systems.

According to the Mount Vernon News, the alarm systems that cause the most false alarms are automatic alarms that go off electronically when they sense smoke or other stimuli.