False alarm ordinance watch

SSN Staff  - 
Monday, September 1, 2003

Providence, R.I.

The Providence City Council put more teeth into the city’s false alarm ordinance last month. Owners of alarm systems are now required to pay $10 annually to register their systems. Failure to do so could result in a $50 fine.

The council also changed another ordinance that allows for owners to be fined when their systems activate when there has not been a break-in. The police department will now tolerate only two false alarms at the same address before a $50 fine can be imposed.

The previous threshold was four false alarms, with $25 fines for the fifth, $50 for the sixth and up to $100 for each incident beyond that.

At press time, both ordinances were awaiting Mayor David Cicilline’s signature before they could be enacted. The mayor has proposed taking the ordinance one step farther by requiring alarm monitoring companies to verify that an alarm has sounded for good reason before police will respond. That provision was dropped after council members said it would dramatically slow police response.

St. Louis, Mo.

Thanks to a renewed insistence that alarm companies have identification numbers for each customer and keep records of installation permits, police here will no longer respond to all alarms at residences in the city.

The policy requires alarm companies to provide valid identification numbers when calling police to report an alarm at a customer’s home. According to the St. Lois Post-Dispatch, it is not uncommon for a company to have large numbers of incomplete files. John Stacey, who supervises the city’s electrical-inspection office, told the newspaper some companies have brought in information on 600 customers, with only 100 having the proper information.

The rationale for requiring ID numbers lies in the city’s ability to collect fines from owners whose systems go off too often. The city charges property owners $10 for the fourth through seventh false alarms and $15 for each successive false alarm.

The city’s rarely-enforced policy for requiring ID numbers dates back to the 1980s, but has only recently been enforced without exception.

Macon, Ga.

Police Chief Rodney Monroe has proposed an ordinance that would require alarm owners to pay $10 per year to register their systems with the city and pay fines for each false alarm beyond the third offense.

The proposed ordinance is aimed at offsetting the roughly $2 million per year the department wastes in officer response each year, according to the Macon Telegraph. At present, the city allows two false alarms per month before levying a $25 fine for each subsequent false alarm. However, records show that more than $100,000 in fines has gone uncollected over the last seven years, which is the main driver toward licensing.

The new proposal would call for fines of $25 for the fourth false alarm in a year, $50 for the fifth and $75 for the sixth. Police would be allowed to ignore alarms at residences or businesses with seven or more false alarms.

The ordinance would also create a class to educate alarm owners about the responsible operation and maintenance of their systems. Successful completion of the class would allow police to waive accumulated fines.

Cincinnati, Ohio

The city council here has voted to repeal a tax on alarm systems that it passed in May after receiving complaints from alarm system owners who claimed they had not been heard on the issue, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Under the plan, which the council enacted to combat more than 24,000 false alarms each year, registration fees for homeowners and businesses were $50 and $100 respectively every two years. The ordinance also called for escalating fees of between $50 and $800 depending on the number of false alarms in a 12-month period.