L.A. flips the switch on new alarm ordinance despite industry reservations

New law adds higher false alarm fines and requires police verify calls after two false dispatches are recorded
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

LOS ANGELES - A several year process to come up with a new alarm ordinance for the city of Los Angeles finally came to a close in early November, when the city began enforcing higher false alarm fines.
The city began enforcing the ordinance on Nov. 8 and charges $115 for the first false alarm. After the second false alarm, police will broadcast the alarm to patrol cars and law enforcement in the area and then file a report. Police are not required to respond after two false alarms unless the alarm is verified.

The ordinance is not what those in the security industry had in mind. For several years, security company owners voiced concerns over a non-response policy and, most recently, over the higher fine schedule.

“I’m very disappointed,” said George Gunning, chief executive officer of USA Alarm Systems and part of the task force that worked with Los Angeles city officials on its new policy. “I believe these fines are going to be devastating to people that have alarm systems.”

Security industry officials are also concerned over the way the ordinance is written, since offenders could be charged with a misdemeanor for multiple false alarms.

Gunning said city officials told him they do not plan to issue such citations, but may use it against chronic false alarm abusers.

The new false alarm penalties follow an overhaul of Los Angeles’ policy on false burglar alarms. Last year, the city adopted a non-response policy, but later amended that to allow two false alarms in a year before police begin its non-response efforts.

The Greater Los Angeles Security Alarm Association has expressed concerns that the new penalties are structured to make money for the city and does not reflect the actual cost of responding to an alarm.

As part of the ordinance, the city is establishing a trust fund for fines. The ordinance could generate as much as $15 million for the city of Los Angeles and its coffers.

Gunning said the alarm industry has done its part to express concerns to city officials and recently informed customers about the new ordinance.

“We believe that the citizens next year will probably contest the punitive fines of $115 for the first false alarm,” he said. “It’s going to be up to the citizens, not the industry,” to stand up against the new law if they want it changed.