Industry, city officials set collaborative ordinance example

Thursday, March 5, 2009

LYNN, Mass.--A recent collaboration between the alarm industry and the powers-that-be in Lynn, Mass., has seen the successful creation of an alarm ordinance that everyone can live with.

John Olson, Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce chairman, hailed the agreement. "The best thing from my perspective is that not only did we end up producing an effective and fair ordinance," Olson said, "but in the process we changed the view people in city government have about the role the Chamber can play in setting policy."

Lynn City Councilor Dan Cahill agrees: "It just became this great sharing of information. It was a wonderful learning experience that exemplified the quintessential model for a public/private collaboration," Cahill said. "That's rare in government. It was just a pleasure to work with those guys." In an effort to free up police time and save taxpayer dollars, Cahill last year proposed an ordinance that would fine owners with repeated false alarm calls. Cahill cited numerous other communities that had an ordinance in place and claimed that such ordinances could reduce the number of false alarm dispatches by as much as 80 percent.

Cahill's original proposal would have instituted a blanket-fine for all residents and businesses with repeated false alarms. Under the new plan, a joint effort by city officials, Lynn-based Wayne Alarm president Ralph Sevinor and Ron Walters from the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, the first two false alarms in a calendar year will be met with a written warning. A $50 fine will be given for the third false alarm, a $150 fine for the fourth and fifth false alarm, and a $300 fine for the sixth and following false alarms. Alarm owners must also be sure their systems are CP-01 compliant, and must provide police with two alternate numbers to call for alarm verification purposes.

Other changes in the new ordinance include a cap of $50 for residential alarm owners aged 70 years or older, and an allowance for false alarms triggered by an "Act of God," such as severe storms and power outages.

Sevinor said the new ordinance is significantly better then the original. "They had an ordinance that they were looking at, a potentially non-response situation or a very punitive situation," Sevinor said. "We called SIAC up and they came down on four days' notice and worked with the city council and put together a very proactive--it started out as a very draconian type of measure--and I think it ended up as a very progressive measure."