June 2008 - Posts

Bigger Fines in Naperville, IL, for False Police Alarms

The most common call for police service in Naperville, IL,  is not for needed help but for false alarms in buildings, and owners will now pay a greater price.

Naperville police typically respond to between 15 and 20 false alarms a day, officials said. That can cost the city more than $500 a day and more than $182,000 a year, according to department figures. 

Under the sanctions recently approved by the City Council, building owners can now be fined $100 per offense for the third false alarm in 12 months, $200 after the sixth false alarm and $350 after the 10th. 

Also, any location that has experienced 11 or more false alarms can be placed on restricted response by the police chief. In that scenario, verbal confirmation is required before police will respond.

In Naperville, police response to daily false alarms consumes an average of 27 minutes per alarm and adds up to as many as 18 hours of police time per day, according to the department. Those are hours that officers are diverted from their normal duties, officials said. 

Police Chief David Dial told the council, which approved the sanctions June 17, that the severity of the problem and improved alarm technology justify toughening the penalties. 

Naperville isn't the only suburb grappling with the problem. 

In Downers Grove, police officers responded to 1,216 false alarms last year. That's 60 percent fewer than the village experienced a decade ago but still more than the department would like. 

"Clearly, responding to false alarms is an inefficient use of manpower," said Deputy Chief James Black. "Each alarm requires at least two officers to respond." 

Downers Grove has worked on reducing the number of false alarms with aggressive fines. A business can be fined from $300 per false alarm—beginning with the fourth one in a calendar year—up to $1,000 per alarm after the 15th offense. Fines for residences range from $100 after the fourth false alarm to $150 after the 10th. 

"Businesses are the problem," Black said, adding that the department does try to work with them to resolve false-alarm issues. 

In Aurora, where fines for false alarms range from $75 to $300, the police chief also has the authority to curtail responses. 

"When our officers respond to false alarms, both they and our 911 operators are taken away from other calls for service where people may actually need emergency assistance," said police spokesman Dan Ferrelli. 

"Frequently, we find instances where alarm systems are set off by roaming animals in a home or are due to some other situation to which the home or business owner has direct control and is easily remedied," he said. "It is up to the alarm user to make sure they have a proper understanding of how their systems work."

Winter Haven Increases Alarm User Fees

City commissioners in Winter Haven, FL, on Monday night approved user fees that will raise an estimated $1 million in new income, which city officials say is needed to help offset a loss of property tax revenue.

Approval of the three fees came amid a barrage of criticism from residents who called them excessive and unfair.

Commissioner Jeff Potter cast dissenting votes on the fire alarm registration fees, fire inspection fees and motor vehicle crash fees. Potter said the city has sufficient reserves to cover the rising costs cited by city administrators.

"I am an insurance agent," Potter said. "I'm not speaking like I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm not in favor of users' fees, and this is just bad."

Commissioner J.P. Powell cast dissenting votes on the fire registration fee and motor vehicle crash fees.

City officials said the fire inspection fee could raise as much as $500,000 per year, a plan to charge the insurance companies of drivers who are at fault in accidents for emergency response and investigative costs will generate an estimated $430,000, and a registration fee for alarm users and an increase in the fines for false alarms will raise $40,000.

City Manager David Greene has said a $3 million loss in property tax revenue makes the fees necessary and they will help the city recoup the costs of providing services.

But residents who lined up to speak Monday's commission meeting blasted the fees.

"Dirty crooks," Irene Rannow shouted from the audience. "This is hard times. We're already paying city taxes and licenses. When did all of this start - this double-dipping?"

Chris Neal, public affairs manager for State Farm, said he was surprised that no one from the city contacted the insurance company about the motor vehicle crash fee.

"We can't allow our customers to be subjected to these fees," Neal said. "This is nothing more than a tax increase and to call this something other than a tax increase is intellectually dishonest."

Elonka Specter, owner of Elonka's Fashions, focused on the alarm and fire inspection fees and said repeat offenders should pay the charges. She said that would still bring in the money necessary without the city charging an initial fee.

"I feel like this would be much more equitable for the general public," Specter said.

The change in alarm fees includes, for the first time, a $25 registration fee for alarm users. It can't be transferred if the user moves to another location. Failure to register the alarm would cost $100. The fee for a false alarm after the fourth and fifth occurrences would cost alarm users $50.

The motor vehicle crash fee would be based on the scope of work performed by city workers at the scene of a crash. The fees would be assessed to the insurance carrier and if the "at-fault" driver doesn't have insurance, the driver would be billed.

It is similar to a plan Auburndale city commissioners were on the verge of imposing earlier this year. But they backed off in the face of criticism from city residents and tabled the proposal for more study.

The fire inspection fee would be based on property categories - commercial, institutional or industrial and calculated based on a building's square footage. There would be an escalating service fee for second, third and fourth fire safety re-inspections.

Deer Park, TX, May Reduce False Alarm Fee Structure

Deer Park, TX,  is re-assessing the alarm fee structure that it revised last April. The city doubled the initial fee to $50, increased the renewal fee from $15 to $50 and cut the valid term of permit half from two years to a year.

The city previously charged a $50 penalty for more than five false alarms within a year. Today it charges a $50 for 4-5 false alarms, a $75 for 6-7 false alarms and a $100 for 8 or more false alarms. It also changed the penalty for operation of an alarm system without a valid permit from a $50 per response to a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. 

The police department replaced the water and tax department to take charge in implementation of the ordinance.

After a briefing by Acting Chief of Police Ken Findley and discussion among council members last week, Mayor Wayne Riddle asked City Manager Ronald V. Crabtree to prepare some information during an upcoming budget workshop, saying most council members seemed to agree to lower the rates somewhat.

The police chief said since the ordinance took effect, the number of police responses to false alarms has decreased by 15 percent and that’s important for several different reasons.

Findley said when an officer keeps responding to false alarms from the same residence or business over and over again, they become complaisant, and also the department at least dispatches two vehicles to each alarm and that costs the department a certain amount.

He said the department currently monitors 1,189 permits and received 1,973 activations from April 17, 2007 to June 6, 2008. Of those 1,588 were false, 367 were undetermined and 18 were true. He said “true” means there were some sort of criminal attempts made to the building.

There were 86 alarms from business and 54 from residence in May while there were 116 alarms from business and 56 from residence last May, according to monthly statistical summary of May 2008 prepared by the Deer Park Police Department. The year-to-date (through May) number of alarms in business decreased by 24 percent to 358, compared to the figure during the same term in the previous year. The year-to-date alarms in residence increased by 4 percent to 254 from the figure in the previous year-to-date. 

Citing the nearly one-fourth decrease, the police chief said, “The alarm ordinance is being effective in dealing with the issues it was designed to deal with.”

He said from April 17, 2007 to June 6, 2008, the department collected $50,110 in permit fees and $16,200 in excessive false alarm fees. He added the staff surveyed the fees in neighboring cities and found a wide range of fee structures for excessive fees.

After the briefing, Councilman Charles Garrison said, “Based on that information and looking at the fees our neighboring cities are charging, I would propose that we reduce the renewal fee for residences, not the initial fees.” 

Councilman Bill Patterson said he would suggest the renewal fee to be back to $15. He said the new $50 renewal fee is excessive.

“I think that’s good that they are addressing the issue, and I feel good that they are going to make some sort of resolution,” a resident Kathy Williams said after the workshop.

At the June 3 council meeting, she addressed the issue and requested the city to lower the fees and establish an easier payment method. 

Findley noted as a department, the staff take “an aggressive approach to inform people in Deer Park” of what the alarm ordinance requires through the city publications, the municipal channel, mails, door hangers and news media. The department sends out a 30-day-advance renewal notice, he said.

Pierce County in Washington Requires Verified Response

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department recently hired Alarm Tracking and Billing Services of Colorado Springs to administer the county’s revised alarm ordinance.

Under the revised ordinance:

• Alarm users must register their systems annually. 

• Alarm companies must verify a burglary alarm before a deputy is dispatched. This can be done by a phone call to the alarm site, by real-time video or by confirming that at least two independent alarms have been triggered. 

Verification is not needed for robbery, panic, fire or medical alarms.

• The penalty for a false alarm fee was lowered from $250 to $100. 

• $24 Annual registration fee for commercial or residential alarm
• $12 Annual residential alarm registration fee for owners 65 and older or those with a certified, permanent disability
• $100 Penalty for each false burglary alarm
• $200 Penalty for each false robbery, panic or duress alarm. (The cost is higher because these types of alarms do not require verification. Sheriff's deputies respond lights and sirens to the calls.)

Alarm Tracking and Billing will handle registration of all alarms installed in homes and businesses throughout unincorporated Pierce County. It will bill alarm owners for false alarms since January and will manage a Web site that allows owners to review their information and pay their bills. 

The company also can provide reports to the Sheriff’s Department about the effectiveness 
of the ordinance.

“It’s extremely comprehensive,” Fajardo said of the company’s services.

The Sheriff’s Department hired ATB Services in May after the County Council revised the alarm ordinance Nov. 27. The new ordinance, which took effect Jan. 1, aims to reduce the number of false alarms in the county. 

Officials in Pierce County are warning residents not to panic if they get a notice in the mail asking them to register a burglar alarm or pay for a false alarm and the return address is in Colorado. 

“We don’t want people to be concerned that it is a scam,” Pierce County sheriff’s Lt. Cynthia Fajardo said.

To manage the ordinance properly, sheriff’s officials decided to hire a private company, Fajardo said.

“It’s so manpower-consuming,” she said. “Cost effective-wise, it was just better to contract it out.”

The Sheriff’s Department has one employee who coordinates the alarm program.

The department signed a one-year contract with ATB, which also manages Olympia’s alarm ordinance, Fajardo said. The contract has a renewal option.

Under the deal, the company receives most of the annual registration fees: $15 of the $24 regular fee and all of the $12 from the fees applied to seniors and permanently disabled alarm owners. 

The remaining money from the registration fees, along with the costs of the false alarms, goes to the county, Fajardo said.

Over the next several weeks, ATB Services will be mailing out registration notifications to alarm users. In August, the company will send out bills for false alarms since Jan. 1. 

The Sheriff’s Department still has unpaid bills for false alarms that happened before the fee was lowered this year, Fajardo said.

“Those fines are not waived,” she said.

Users have until December to pay the older bills. If a bill isn’t paid, the Sheriff’s Department will suspend the account.

“We will not respond to alarms at their residence,” Fajardo said.

Winter Haven (FL) Proposes Registration and Fees for False Alarms

To cover the costs, the Winter Haven, FL, administration is proposing three new fees that will help recoup the money. The City Commission will take action on the proposed fees at an upcoming meeting.

City Manager David Greene said the $3 million loss in property tax revenue is the reason the fees are necessary. Greene said the proposed fees are consistent and not unlike what's being done in other cities.

Specific to false alarms, city officials said the work performed was the equivalent of 16 work weeks at an estimated cost of $19,950. Of the false alarms, 125 were at places that had a history of four or more alarms. In 2007, the number of locations that had a history of four or more false alarms rose to 164.

To cut back on the careless or improper use, the city wants to implement a $25 registration fee that can't be transferred if the alarm user moves to another location.

Failure to register the alarm would cost $100. The fee for a false alarm after the fourth and fifth occurrence would cost alarm users $50. The city expects to collect $40,000 in additional revenue.

While City Commissioner Jeff Potter agrees the false alarms need to be controlled, he doesn't agree with charging a registration fee.

"To me it's a slap in the face if you're a citizen of Winter Haven," he said. "I understand where they are going with all of this, but I don't think it's the right way to do it."

A second fee city officials want to implement is a routine fire inspection fee that would include a first re-inspection.

The inspections would be categorized by property types as commercial, institutional and industrial. The fee would be based on the building's square footage.

There would also be an escalating service fee for second, third and fourth fire safety re-inspection. The proposal also establishes a fire system installation test inspection fee.

Currently, a fire inspection fee is not charged on the first or second visit for a business' annual inspection. If the City Commission approves this ordinance, a fee would be charged for the initial and subsequent inspections.

South Brunswick, NJ, Considered Steeper Fines for False Alarms

Capt. Harry Delgado and South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka recently introduced 
an ordinance in front of the Township Council that would place more stringent penalties 
on owners of alarm systems that are triggered falsely. 

Under the current law, a homeowner cannot be fined until the sixth false alarm. This 
ordinance would allow people to be fined the first time it happens. 

"Everyone would be responsible from the first alarm," Delgado said. 

Delgado said false alarms are detrimental to the police department because they have to 
allocate resources toward deploying police officers. 

"According to the national figures, and these are accurate figures, an alarm requires 
about 20 minutes of police time per officer," Delgado said. "We send two officers. 
Depending on the salary range nationally, this costs between $36 and $100 per alarm." 

"If most of the alarms were real, we wouldn't be talking," Delgado said. "It wouldn't be 
a problem. Responding to alarms is a different type of call. It's a high-priority, high-
risk call. The likelihood of injury is significantly higher." 

Councilman Joseph Camarota said he understands why this ordinance is being proposed but 
wants it to be toned down a little. 

"It's a little egregious in terms of the fines," Camarota said. "There are always 
extenuating circumstances. I would like the police chief to be the administrator." 

At the council meeting, Hayducka indicated that he would have full discretion over when 
to apply the fines and would be open to not fining a person if the circumstances do not 
warrant it. 

Delgado said that after a homeowner has a first false alarm, he or she would go to an 
"online school" to learn how to use his or her alarm system properly. The online program 
would be free and is embedded into the ordinance. 

"People should know [how to use it] when they purchase the equipment," Delgado said. 

The issue was discussed at the June 3 and June 10 council meetings. If the ordinance were 
passed, there would be a very comprehensive educational component to notify people of the 
changes in the law, said Delgado. It would most likely go into effect January 2009, if it 
were approved by the council.

Newark, NJ, False Alarm Ordinance for Vote on 6/23

Newark, NJ, businesses and homeowners could be forced to upgrade their automatic alarm systems 
if City Council approves a proposed false alarm ordinance slated for a final vote on June 

“The city has a large number of false alarm calls that can take our officers away from 
their other duties for a good 20 minutes or so,” said Newark Police Cpl. John Potts, who 
authored the proposed ordinance. “Most of them are caused by employee error or a simple 

In addition to draining police resources, false alarms can also put an officer in danger, 
Potts said.

“When you respond to the same false alarm call time after time, you start to assume it’s 
the same old story,” he said. “Over time, an officer can begin to let their guard down 
and that’s when they are most in danger of being surprised.”

If approved, the new law would establish a $10 a year registration fee for all automatic 
alarms systems, plus another $10 a year fee if the system includes a panic or robbery 

As a part of registering their systems, alarm owners also would be required to submit 
pertinent information about their system and the company that monitors the alarm.

According to the proposed ordinance, alarm owners would be permitted four false alarms in 
a 12-month period, after which they would be fined $100 for the fifth false alarm, $150 
for the sixth and $200 for every false alarm thereafter.

After the seventh false alarm, the police department would be authorized to suspend the 
owner’s registration, thereby making it illegal to re-arm the system without permission 
from the city.

Alarm owners also would be required to pay to have a licensed company inspect their 
system after the first two false alarms in a 12-month period.

The proposal defines a false alarm as any automated request for police services when 
there is no emergency or criminal activity requiring an immediate response.

Exceptions would be made for alarms sounded by an individual who believes they are in 
danger, as a result of weather, an action by a telephone company, or a power outage 
lasting four hours or more.

The proposal also would limit audible alarms to a 10-minute duration. If an alarm sounds 
for more than an hour, the police department would be authorized to disconnect the alarm 
system and charge a $100 service fee.

All fines and registration suspensions issued under the proposed law could be appealed to 
the city alderman.

Potts said the ordinance is modeled after state law.

“From our standpoint, the city’s current alarm statue has been cumbersome to enforce,” he 
said. “Our intent is to streamline the enforcement, as well as our administration of the 

Sheriff: 'Alarm systems are good'

Vernon County, Kansas, along with several of the surrounding counties, has experienced a rash of smash-and-grab burglaries since the end of May according to Vernon County Sheriff Ron Peckman. 

"Vernon County and the surrounding counties have been having a lot of kick in the door and grab stuff type burglaries, mainly during daylight hours out in the county," Peckman said. "It's mainly things they can carry off and get rid of easily -- electronics, guns, things like that." 

The highest number of such crimes recently reported has been Vernon County, but the surrounding counties are being affected as well. 

"Since the last day of May there have been eight in Vernon County," Peckman said. "The surrounding counties have had four or five each." 

The descriptions of possible suspects and crimes are slightly different in each county but the possibility exists that the crimes are connected and a single group is responsible, 

"In Vernon County we're looking for an old-style Crown Vic, or possibly a Grand Marquis -- the ones that are boxy. It could possibly be white in color," Peckman said. "In Cedar (County) they're looking for a black, '90s Cadillac and in Bourbon (County) they're looking for either a white Suburban or a black pickup." 

Peckman said evidence has been sent to the crime lab for processing and he is awaiting the results. 

"We picked up several pieces of evidence that had been thrown out at one scene and at another we got some more," Peckman said. 

Peckman said that neighbors can make a difference by keeping their eyes and ears open. 

"Be a good neighbor," Peckman said. "Be on the lookout for suspicious activity and get a description of the vehicle and the license number." 

He also had advice for someone who came home to find a break-in. 

"If you come up and find a break-in, leave things as they are so we can process the evidence," Peckman said. "We went out to one and they had cleaned up and put everything away. I can understand why they would do that but it destroys the value of the evidence." 

To help prevent a break-in Peckman said residents should consider a burglar alarm, even if all they can afford is an inexpensive one. 

"Alarm systems are good, they don't have to be the kind that calls in," Peckman said. "Even a cheap one that just sounds a horn will attract attention -- and that's what they don't want -- are good."

Kannapolis (NC) to Impose Fines for False Alarms

The Kannapolis Police Department is kicking off the city's new program to reduce the 
number of false alarms and the unnecessary police response each requires.

In recent years, false alarms account for approximately 99.3 percent of all alarms to 
which the Kannapolis Police Department has responded. These false alarms divert law 
enforcement resources from crimes in progress, other emergency situations and time spent 
performing their normal duties. 

Kannapolis City residents and businesses are now required to register their alarm system. 
The registration process will begin immediately.

"With over 3,300 false alarms per year, the Kannapolis Police Department loses over 1,100 
man hours every year due to false alarms. This is the equivalent of one police officer 
spending six months of the year dealing with nothing other than false alarms," said Chief 
Chavis. "The implementation of this ordinance will enable officers to spend more time in 
the communities fighting crime."

The Kannapolis Police Department will continue tracking the number of false alarms in the 
city. In cases where police respond to three or more false alarms per year, the 
registered alarm user will face a series of graduated fines, ranging from $50 to $250 for 
each violation. 

Excessive repeated false alarms (10 or more) will result in a $500 fine, revocation of 
the alarm owner's permit, and a suspension of response, which means police will no longer 
respond to the alarm location. Proof will then have to be provided that the alarm has 
been tested and fixed. Failing to register an alarm will result in a $200 fine. The 
provisions of the ordinance exclude activations of fire, motor vehicle, domestic violence 
or medical alarms. 

"Our police department must take every alarm activation seriously. In nearly every 
instance, however, our officers arrive to discover a false alarm caused by equipment 
malfunction or human error," said Chief Chavis. 

"This new program will help reduce the number of hours officers are diverted from 
critical police duties to respond to false alarms. This will ensure that officers are 
available to patrol our neighborhoods and respond to people in need."

For more information about the false alarm registration program or to register your alarm 
system, please call the city of Kannapolis False Alarm Reduction Program at 866- 402-
2091, or go click here.

Union Township (PA) to Increase Fines for False Alarms

Union Twp. supervisors agreed Wednesday night to increase the fees for multiple false alarms. 

A resident or business with three to five false alarms during a 12-month period will be charged $250 for each alarm, up from the current $100. The fee for the sixth, seventh and eighth false alarm will be $750. Any such alarm beyond eight will cost $1,500 per call.

Lincoln County (NM) Ordinance Seeks Reduction in False Alarms

Even before the recent approval of amended Lincoln County's alarm regulations, the county's ordinance administrator said she saw a significant reduction in false alarms.

Renee Santos told county commissioners at their meeting last month that the main change in the amended ordinance they later approved unanimously was to require alarm companies to notify her about existing and new clients.

"Otherwise we have no idea who has alarms or not," she said. "We've talked to the companies and things are starting to change. There has been a noticeable difference since we've been working on the ordinance and we let them know. They are following the ordinance a lot more now and it has made a difference in the number of false alarms."

The new ordinance replaces one approved in 2006.

Commission Chairman Tom Battin pointed out that violation penalties include fines and even a prison sentence for failure to meet the conditions of the ordinance that include establishing a local contact person.

"This will strengthen your enforcement as well," he told Santos.

Sheriff Rick Virden previously voiced his backing for an ordinance to cut down on the number of false alarms deputies must check, wasting their time and gasoline.

Attorney Alan Morel said the ordinance aims to place core responsibility on out of town alarm companies that are not responding to false alarms. The new law provides minimum standards. The rules do not apply to alarms that cannot be seen or heard by the public, he said.
If permit fees or fines are not paid, a lien can be filed against the owner's property and would have to be paid before the property could be sold with a clear title.

"It doesn't pay to go to court to try to collect," Morel said.

Bogus Alarm Could Cost in Dickenson, Texas

Bogus burglar-alarm calls are wasting police officers’ time, and the Dickinson, Texas, is mulling enforcing an existing ordinance to bill violators.

Dickinson alarm holders receive five free false alarm calls per year, but in 2007 the city could have billed $13,700 for 274 bogus calls.

Police Chief Ron Morales told the city council Tuesday night the issue isn’t necessarily a monetary one.

“The primary officer and a backup officer should be doing something else in those 15 to 20 minutes on a false call,” he said. “I don’t know of any city that doesn’t bill.”

The primary culprits are the Dickinson Independent School District — which the city could have billed $3,900 last year — and a few restaurants.

Councilman Charles Suderman and Councilwoman Mary Dunbaugh said the city should enforce the existing ordinance — which could fine violators $50 after five freebies — or remove it.

Councilman Kerry Neves balked at the idea, saying some people with older alarms might need to update their devices to comply with the city’s requirements.

“I don’t think people not causing a problem should have to rewire their system,” Neves said. “There are better things we can do than chase after people and their alarms.”

When asked after the meeting what the city would do if someone didn’t pay a fine, Morales said he would recommend the council allow police to stop answering calls there.

Neves agreed, saying he believed if the city sent the school district a bill, it likely wouldn’t pay.

Police Capt. Melvin Mason told the council as many as 90 percent of the alarm-ordinance violators don’t have city-mandated alarm permits.

Residential burglar-alarm permits cost $25 each and must be renewed annually for $15. Registering a fire alarm is an additional fee at the same price.

Morales told the council the police department doesn’t have manpower to track false alarm data, but a $20,650 software package available for purchase with an annual maintenance budget of $2,740 would solve the problem of tracking data and also produce bills.

“At these rates, it would pay for itself in the fines we’re losing,” Morales said.

The council took no action on the matter.

Residents Still Uneasy About Verified Response in Freemont, CA

The landmark decision by Fremont, CA, police three years ago to quit responding to burglar 
alarms still rankles Junior Moosayar, who stood inside his car accessories shop recently 
and described a medley of shiny stereos, rims and grilles as a "criminal's dream."

Moosayar's unease led him to fortify his ceiling with metal rails and put up 16 cameras 
that he can monitor online. He pays guards to show up when his alarm trips. And he 
responds as well, armed.

Moosayar says he feels less safe, but he admits that every time his alarm has gone off 
since 2005, no one was actually burglarizing his Junior's Car Stereo. Sometimes, he said, 
the alarm would sound when buses backed into his roll-down door while picking up 
passengers at an adjacent train station on Fremont Boulevard.

Moosayar's situation helps explain why Police Chief Craig Steckler - frustrated that 99 
percent of alarms in his city were false - made Fremont the first city in the state to 
stop sending officers to homes and businesses unless an alarm company verifies that an 
intrusion has occurred.

Steckler says the first three years of "verified response" have gone well, saving the 
city more than $600,000 a year. He says arrests are up across the board. Taxpayers 
without alarms, he says, no longer subsidize the 20 percent with alarms.

"The alarm industry claimed people were going to get raped and murdered, but none of it 
happened," said Steckler, the top cop for 16 years in the Bay Area's fourth most populous 
city. "The only unfortunate thing is it got advertised around the world that Fremont 
doesn't respond to burglar alarms."

Other cities stop short

As Fremont overhauled its alarm response, other Bay Area cities toughened policies 
without refusing to respond altogether - an approach that security companies say is 
preferable because it doesn't punish responsible users.

"Are we ever going to get to zero (false alarms)? No. Can we drive those numbers down 
while retaining police response? Yes," said Dave Simon, a spokesman for Brink's.
Some cities now require that alarm monitors make two calls to try to confirm a break-in - 
the first to the home or business and the second to a contact person.

Most cities fine residents and merchants if they exceed one or two false alarms over a 
given time.

"We've chosen a different path so we can still provide a service to people who aren't 
chronic false alarm generators," said police Lt. Robert Weldon of Hayward, which charges 
fines of $50 to $500 for repeated false alarms.

In Hayward, the number of false burglar alarms was cut from 8,210 in 2005 to 6,309 last 
year, Weldon said. The city recovered $656,000 in fiscal 2006-2007 because of licensing 
fees and fines.

Johnstown (PA) Plans Ordinance to Penalize False Fire Alarms

Johnstown, PA, officials want to crack down on false automatic fire alarms. 

City council has given preliminary approval to an ordinance that will give each home or business up to three false alarms per calendar year. After that, homeowners will pay a $50 fee for a false alarm, and businesses will pay $150. 

The ordinance allows officials to waive the penalty if a fourth or subsequent false alarms are not the fault of the alarm's owner. 

Those with new alarms will also be given a two-week grace period to work out any bugs. 

The city hopes the policy will safeguard firefighters and cut down on fuel costs associated with unnecessary calls.

Huntington, WV, Fines: $100-400 for Second False Alarm

The council unanimously approved an ordinance establishing fines for false alarms. 
Property owners will be allowed one free false alarm every 30 days. 

Any false alarm thereafter will result in fines ranging from $100 to $400.

Mayor David Felinton said the ordinance is not intended to generate revenue. Instead, 
it's meant to coerce business owners into fixing faulty alarm systems, he said. Thousands 
of dollars are spent each year on emergency response calls for false alarms, he said.

Johnstown, NY May Eliminate False Alarm Fees

Johnstown, NY, City Attorney Susan Palmer Johnson will be drafting a change to city ordinances to eliminate the city’s mandated fire alarm fees that have been assessed to businesses for many years.

The issue was first broached last month and Johnson said she will now work on making the change after no one objected at the Common Council’s meeting Monday night at City Hall.

In May, city Treasurer Michael Gifford told the council the city should discuss whether to continue a $150 fee established in 1999 for any private building with a red fire box to tie into the Fire Department alarm system. He said there’s not much expenditure related to the system now.

“Now, it’s time to discuss whether we want to continue with this fee,” Gifford said last month. “Maybe it’s time to get rid of this fee ... It seems [the city] might be accumulating money that we might actually not need.”

On Monday, Gifford said there exists $36,000 left in the alarm fees account — “more than enough.”

Mayor Sarah J. Slingerland said the city wants to encourage business activity in the city and one less fee can be eliminated.

“I would support removing that annual fee,” Slingerland said.

Gifford said the fees were originally intended to buy equipment for the alarm system, but that has been done.

City Fire Chief Bruce Heberer said there is a maintenance cost for the system, but that is manageable with city funds available.

“We can well afford the maintenance,” Heberer said.

Anne Arundel County (MD) Considers False Alarm Penalties

In Maryland, Anne Arundel County police responded to too many false alarms last year and the rest were an 
almost criminal waste of time, county officials say.

The Leopold administration hopes to change that ratio - and stop sapping the Police 
Department's resources - with a draft bill expected to be introduced to the County 
Council on Tuesday that could impose penalties on residents and business owners 
responsible for repeated false alarms. 

Anne Arundel would be one of the last counties in Maryland to enact such legislation, 
which would levy a fee on homes and businesses that racked up three or more false alarms 
a year. The penalty would increase based on the number of offenses, though officials did 
not disclose the amounts.

"False alarm responses to residences and businesses has caused a significant resource 
drain for the Police Department," said County Executive John R. Leopold, who worked with 
police and other counties in proposing the measure. "The legislation should provide an 
effective means at reducing the inordinately high number of false alarms. ... I think 
action on this issue is long overdue."

Among the biggest culprits in Anne Arundel County were 140 residences and 678 businesses 
that had more than five false alarms in 2007, said Capt. Thomas Rzepkowski, commander of 
the Anne Arundel police special services division. Rzepkowksi said one business' alarm 
produced 42 bogus calls and that 33 businesses had more than 20 calls apiece.

The most among residences was 27, he said. 

There were also 1,713 false alarm responses to county schools, 30 such responses to the 
Board of Education building on Riva Road and 110 false alarm responses to county 
government facilities.

Brad Shipp, executive director of the Maryland Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, said 
most false alarms are caused by human errors such as not setting the alarm properly or 
tripping an alarm by mistake. Poor maintenance of the alarm system and stormy weather can 
also lead to false alarms.

Big-box retailers, banks and fast-food restaurants are routinely among the biggest 
offenders, he said. 

"You're talking about diverting patrol officers away from legitimate public safety 
problems," Rzepkowski said, adding that the time an officer spends on a response depends 
on the size of the building and whether a walk-around is required. "To find out that it's 
all unnecessary because it was a false alarm is very disheartening." 

The draft bill would also require households and businesses to pay a registration fee 
upon installation of an alarm system, which would allow the county to better track repeat 

Maryland counties with similar legislation in effect assess a first fee of $30 to $50, 
Shipp said. Registration fees range from $20 to $30, he said. 

Baltimore County, which implemented a false alarm fee in 1999, charges a $50 fee for a 
third offense and as much as a $500 penalty for 14 offenses or more, said Ellen Kobler, 
deputy director for the Baltimore County Office of Communications. Kobler said the fees 
will lead to about $533,000 in revenue this year.

Baltimore County had 33,166 alarms last year, of which 1,055 were classified as "not 
false," said Bill Toohey, a Baltimore County police spokesman.

In Howard County, there were 12,620 false alarms recorded last year. The number of alarms 
tied to crimes was not available, said Sherry Llewellyn, director of public affairs for 
the Police Department. 

Howard County fees start at $50 for the third offense and climb as high as $1,000 for 
more than 15 offenses. 

Anne Arundel County Council Chairwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican, 
declined to comment on the local bill until the council discusses it.

"There's a direct financial benefit with fees and penalties, but the real benefit is that 
it will keep police doing real police work," said Alan R. Friedman, director of 
government relations for Leopold, who said the county worked closely with other 
jurisdictions to come up with the draft bill.

"With rising gas prices and the time and effort involved, it's a real savings in cost."

Huntington, WV City Council to Review Alarm Ordinance

On June 9, 2008, Huntington, WV city council will include the third reading on an alarm ordinance which would penalize commercial and residential locations for alarms triggered by weather related power interruptions. 

Originally, the ordinance exempted natural events, but the mayor and council have determined that nearly all installed systems have battery backup. 

Although some education may be necessary, consumers will be more protected if they insert the proper battery into their alarm system, rather, than depending totally on electrical power.

Cellular Communication for Alarm Systems Expected To Increase

Traditionally, security alarm systems used fixed telephone lines to pass information from 
the security alarm panel to a central monitoring facility. Today, however, that 
communication is increasingly being delegated to a digital cellular link. ABI Research 
forecasts that the 2007 number of just fewer than 2.5 million wireless security alarm 
connections will increase to more than 7.5 million in 2013. 

What is driving this transition? According to senior analyst Sam Lucero, a number of 
factors have combined to create this new market trend. 

“In North America, formerly analog wireless security alarms are now shifting to digital 
cellular services as a result of the AMPS ‘sunset’ in February 2008,” Lucero said. “More 
importantly, the continuing decline of landline voice services and the increasing 
utilization of second phone lines for DSL broadband services have made cellular 
connectivity more attractive, even necessary, for security alarm connectivity.” 

Other factors promoting cellular security backhaul include the general trend for cost-
optimized alarm systems to rely on wireless connectivity exclusively, particularly in 
Europe. In addition, wireless operators and broadband service providers are increasingly 
entering the security alarm service industry and are utilizing wireless either as a 
primary connection or back-up connection to a primary broadband connection. Also, unlike 
wired connections, cellular connections cannot be cut, and current cellular module 
technology includes anti-jamming features. 

Lucero does caution that there are challenges to the adoption of wireless technology by 
the security alarm industry. 

“Wireless is a relatively new option and many security alarm dealers have to be trained 
in the installation process,” he said. “In addition, the relatively high cost of modules, 
particularly CDMA modules, is an inhibitor. Despite these barriers, however, there is an 
opportunity here for most if not all cellular module vendors, as well as for carriers and 
specialist M2M providers.” 

AT&T appears to have positioned itself as a key player in the North American market, as 
has M2M mobile operators Aeris, Jasper Wireless, and Numerex. M2M mobile virtual network 
operator KORE Telematics is also strongly positioned in this market.

Scottsdale, AZ, Boosts False Alarms Fines; Requires Dealer Licensing

Scottsdale homeowners and businesses that repeatedly have false security alarms will face stiffer penalties beginning Sept. 2 and workers installing or repairing alarm systems will have to undergoes fingerprinting and background checks to obtain licensing.

The City Council on June 3, 2008, approved hiking the fees for alarm-permit holders with five or more false alarms in a year, which take up police time and cost the city money. While fees for the third and fourth calls stay the same, they increase for five or six calls to $100 each and for seven calls or more to $200 each.

Other alarm measures approved include:

Labeling customers who have seven or more false alarms within 180 days "abusers" and potentially revoking their alarm permits.

Imposing liens on properties for which the permit holder has failed to pay false alarm fees.

Requiring security companies to call not only the site of the alarm activation, but also the permit holder's contact number before asking the police to investigate.

Increasing police response time to alarms from 20 minutes to 30 minutes.

Also, workers installing or repairing alarm systems will have to undergo fingerprinting and background checks to obtain a license.

New Mexico House Bill Allots Funds for School Security

If passed, New Mexico HB561, the “Public School Infrastructure Fund” creates a Public School Infrastructure Fund and establishes a process for awarding grant dollars and allocate $500,000 for this in FY 2009.

The bill would permit schools to use funding for security improvements including perimeter security, video surveillance equipment, and access control systems.

Democrat Thomas Garcia sponsored the bill and it unanimously passed the Education Committee on February 4, 2008. The legislation is pending approval from the Appropriations in Finance Committee. The committee will review the legislation’s fiscal impact.

Scottsdale, AZ, Considers Higher Fees for False Alarms

Scottsdale city officials may soon crack down on false security alarms that are costing 
the police department money.

The city doesn't charge to respond to the first two false alarms in a year, but fines for 
subsequent false alarms range from $50 to $200. The fees haven't been raised since 2001.

The City Council is set on Tuesday to consider hiking the fees for false alarms and other 

One penalty under consideration would label customers with seven or more false alarms within 180 days as 
abusers who could potentially face the revocation of their alarm permits.

Another idea is to impose liens on properties for which the permit holder has failed to 
pay false alarm fees.

The new rules also would give permit holders a chance to take a class on operating their 
alarm systems to wipe out one false alarm fee per year.