False alarm ordinance watch
GREAT FALLS, Mont.
Police here have asked city commissioners to raise the fines for false alarms in an effort to reduce the number of false alarms officers respond to each year.
The current city ordinance, adopted in 1995, calls for alarm owners to be fined $25 for each false alarm after the first six. Police are asking owners to face fines of $100 for the fifth false alarm, with fines escalating as high as $500 for the eighth. The proposed ordinance would also levy a $25 permit, which users would have to renew annually.
According to the Great Falls Tribune, even if the new fines are adopted, Great Falls will be more lenient than nearby Billings, which gives users only one warning before imposing fines.
Police Officer Corey Reeves told the Tribune that business owners would be allowed to protest their fines and have charges forgiven if problems are fixed. Last year, the department responded to 1,200 alarms, 90 percent of which were false. Three-quarters of those were caused by human error. Between January and June of this year, 25 businesses had more than four false alarms, the Tribune reported.
About 30 businesses and residences accumulated $3,700 in false alarm fines in July alone, the first month the police department began billing for false alarms, according to the Stamford Advocate.
Under the ordinance, property owners must register their burglar and fire alarms. They are allowed two false alarms for each fiscal year, which began July 1. After those two, they receive a warning letter from the police department and face fines of $50 for the third offense and $75 for each subsequent false alarm.
The ordinance was passed last winter, but property owners were given a few months of leeway. According to the Advocate, the majority of violators were commercial properties, and the largest fine for a single property was $800.
In the 2003 fiscal year, the police department spent $423,770 responding to more than 7,000 false alarms.
Police here said they would start levying fines in support of an alarm ordinance adopted by the board of aldermen earlier this year. The goal of the ordinance was to reduce the number of false alarms, and while that may have happened, Police Chief Bobby Williamson said it hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t done enough, according to the The Tennesseean.
In two monthsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ time, Williamson said, there were 334 total alarms, 158 of which were false and 156 of which were multiple calls. While some of those false alarms could be attributed to circumstances beyond the home-ownerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s control, Williamson said there had been 20 violations where notices had been issued. Four properties had already exceeded the townÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s annual allotment of four false alarms in that time.
The first offense will result in a $25 fine for the property owner, who has the right to appeal that fine. Williamson said if property owners refuse to pay fines, eventually the police department will stop responding to alarms at their locations.
PLEASANT GROVE, Utah
Pleasant Grove and Lindon have adopted an alarm ordinance that not only requires users to pay $25 to register their systems but makes them subject to fines beginning at $50 for excessive false alarms.
First-time offenders will receive a warning, a second violation will result in a $50 fine and a third violation will cost property owners $75. Beyond that, each incident will carry a $100 fine. If a property has had more than four false alarms in a six-month period, police will be able to notify the property owner that they will no longer respond.
Police Chief Tom Paul estimates his officers respond to one or two false alarms per day, 50 percent of which come from businesses in Lindon, according to the Deseret Morning News.