May 2009 - Posts

Hagerstown, MD, to Fine for False Alarms

Hagerstown, MD, will fine homeowners and businesses whose security alarms mistakenly go off.

The City Council voted Tuesday to adopt the Washington County Alarm Ordinance.

The first two false alarms in a calendar year will result in a warning. The third offense has a $30 fine for residential-property owners and a $60 fine for commercial-property owners. Each subsequent offense will increase by $20 for residential alarms and $25 for commercial alarms.

The ordinance takes effect July 1.

Beverly, MA, False Alarms to Cost Homeowners

During a Town Meeting in Beverly, MA, it was voted unanimously to amend the bylaws so that property owners will now pay fees to the town for false alarms requiring a response from police officers.

With this vote, owners will now pay $50 for a third false alarm in a calendar year, $100 for a fourth and fifth false alarm and $200 for sixth and subsequent false alarms.

Duluth, MN, City Council Passed False Alarm Ordinance

The Duluth, MN, City Council voted Tuesday to start charging businesses and individuals for excessive false security alarms,

Police will continue to respond to initial alarms for free, but the third time police respond to an address for a false alarm now will come with a $100 service fee. The fourth response will cost $200 and the fifth will cost $300.

The Police Department asked the council to pass the charges as a way to cut down on the time officers dedicate to false alarms.  

Only Garry Krause voted against the false alarm fees, saying it could discourage people from getting alarms.

“I would never want to send any form of message in our community that would potentially inhibit putting in an alarm system,” Krause said.

Derry, MA, Town Council Mulling Alarm Ordinance

Property owners in Derry, MA, with faulty alarm systems could soon start paying for their mistakes.

The Town Council is mulling over an ordinance that would charge property owners a $50 fee if their alarm systems create too many false alarms. It's part of a plan to create new revenue in a poor economy. Derry fire Lt. Brett Scholbe estimates it could bring in as much as $11,000 per year.

But even more important than the revenue would be the incentive for property owners to fix their faulty systems.

"If the service is up to date and working properly, there shouldn't be an issue," Scholbe said.

Property owners with fewer than 125 smoke detectors would be allowed three false alarms per year. Larger alarm systems would be allowed five false alarms per year, according to the proposal.

False alarms are most common at small businesses with old alarm systems not properly maintained. Although the Fire Department responds to false alarms at schools and homes, Scholbe said they weren't the problem.

Charges would only be levied against property owners after the Fire Department determined the false alarm was triggered by a faulty system, Scholbe said.

Although the Fire Department is responding to fewer false alarms now than in the past, he said it was still a good ordinance to pass to make sure fire resources weren't wasted.

Most of the larger commercial buildings and schools have improved their alarm systems over the last few years to reduce the number of false alarm calls, Scholbe said.

"We're seeing less of them," he said.

Charging for false alarms is nothing new and some other local communities are already collecting fees.

Plaistow fire Chief John McArdle said his department can charge anyone $50 after three false alarms. The fines increase dramatically after that. The next false alarm costs $100 and after that, the penalty is the cost of the firefighters and trucks that respond to the call.

"If it gets to be the fourth and the fifth time, they're just not paying attention," McArdle said.

Still, McArdle said he would rather not bill anyone. He said he would prefer to have the property owner use the money to fix the faulty system.

In Londonderry, a town with lots of commercial properties near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, fire Chief Kevin MacCaffrie said there is no penalty for false alarms, but it's something that will likely come up in the fall when the department reviews its fees.

"It's in our minds as well," MacCaffrie said.

Swampscott, MA, Police Chief Explains New Alarm Bylaw

Swampscott, MA, Police Chief Ronald Madigan said the new bylaw regulating alarms goes into effect July 1 but residents and businesses would have plenty of time to register their alarm systems.

"We've already received a call from someone asking how to register," he said. "She said she wanted to make sure she doesn't get a fine."

Madigan said the bylaw, passed at Town Meeting earlier this month, requires all alarms be registered in January.

"It's going into effect in July," he said. "We've got to put a system in place for people to register so obviously there will be a grace period."

The new bylaw requires all alarms in town to be registered, properly installed and maintained to minimize false alarms. The regulations require alarms to have equipment that prevents false alarms in a power failure.

The police plan to designate an officer to administer the program, responsible for reviewing alarm activations, reporting problem alarms, service fee billing and to act as a community resource.

Homeowners would not be fined for the first two false alarms but a $60 service fee would apply to residential alarms for the third and subsequent false alarms within a calendar year.

The first two false alarms on non-residential properties in a calendar year would not be charged a fee, but subsequent violations would result in an $80 fee per occurrence. A malicious false alarm would carry a fine of $150 per activation. 
The alarm service fees would not be subject to a formal appeal process but Madigan said the police chief, fire chief or other designee would accept written documentation outlining mitigating circumstances for the false alarm and measures being taken by the user to prevent future false alarms, adding that the police and fire chief could waive the fee if circumstances warranted it.

Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, Increase Alarm Fines

The cost of a third false alarm in one year will increase from $64 to $85 in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA.

This unanimous decision by the council aligns the city's cost for false alarms with the Orange County Sheriff's Department's current fee. The fee is charged when the Sheriff's Department responds to the third and any subsequent false security alarms at the same business or residence within a year.

The program allows for the city to recoup costs spent on the Sheriff's Department contract, which includes responses to security alarms.

The cost increase came after the county studied the program and adjusted the price for various reasons including increases in sheriff salaries, supplies, liability insurance and transportation costs.

Staff estimates the false alarm cost increase will result in a savings of $6,524 per year for the city.

Council Member Jerry Holloway likes the program and asked staff to provide more information on the costs involved with false alarms. Holloway is interested in raising the city's false alarm fee to include the service lost when sheriff's department personnel respond to a false alarm.

Islamorada, FL, Moving Forward on Alarm Law

Islamorada, FL, could start fining property owners for excessive  false alarms under proposed new ordinances.

The village council approved during a first reading and ordinance that would require every owner of a burglar alarm to register with the village. Owners would be fined for having more than two false alarms when police respond in a year. 

The new rules will be set if the ordinances are approved a second time at the next council meeting scheduled in two weeks.

Monroe County and the South Florida Water Management District asked municipalities to adopt ordinances to enforce water restrictions, according to Islamorada Village Manager Ken Fields.

Fines would be $75 for the first violation ($50 if the citation isn’t contested), $100 for the second and $500 for any subsequent violation.

The burglar alarm ordinance was requested by Sheriff’s Office Islamorada sector commander Capt. Don Fanelli, who said the village code needs to be updated to match Monroe County and other municipalities’ codes.

“My day shift fully staffed includes a sergeant and two officers, and when we have an alarm we have to send two officers and take them away from other duties,” Fanelli said. 

Fanelli said police responded to 44 false alarms last year at just one business, which he wouldn’t identify.

Fanelli said most of the false alarms are caused by air conditioning and wind triggering motion detectors. He said most issues can be fixed easily, and imposing fines could motivate owners.

“This is by no means a way to increase revenue; it’s to make better use of the law enforcement resources we have,” he said.

The ordinance would require a one-time $40 registration fee and would impose fines of $75 for the third false alarm in one year, $150 for the fourth and $250 for each additional false alarm.

Oldham County, KY, Has First Reading of Alarm Ordinance

Oldham County, KY, Fiscal Court will have a first reading of a revised alarm ordinance and of the proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

Fiscal Court will meet at 2 p.m. at 100 W. Jefferson Street in La Grange.

Franklin, TN, Changes Alarm Law and Fine System

Police in Franklin, TN, police have changed their policy when it comes to burglar alarms in hopes it will free up more of their time. 

"More people have alarm systems. All of the new businesses have alarms, all of the new homes are being built with alarm systems and so because of those things, we get more false alarms," explained Sgt. Charles Warner with the Franklin Police Department.

In addition to the time spent driving to homes and businesses where false burglar alarms have gone off, officers had to spend more time filling out forms and filing those with the city clerk's office.

"Our previous system we had to have the officer call into dispatch, they gave them the information, the officer would write the citation, leave it with the resident. The paperwork would come and it would start all over again," Sgt. Warner continued.

The procedure is now slightly different.

Now, officers respond just as quickly but once they confirm it to be a false or accidental alarm, they will move on to be available for real emergencies.

Homeowners will notice the change before anyone else.

"They're not going to see a paper citation at their door," said Sgt. Warner. "They'll get a follow up letter from the records clerk with a citation or warning, a few days after the actual alarm."

Franklin police do not charge residents for the first four false alarms. 

A fine of $25 is assessed for false alarms five through seven. 

The eighth false alarm will result in the revocation of the alarm permit, which is required by Franklin city ordinance.

Crestwood, MO, to Fine for False Alarms

The Crestwood, MO, Board of Aldermen plans to require the police and fire departments to start charging false alarm fees. 

It's undecided, however, how many "freebie" false alarms will be allowed before a particular residence or business is charged $25 and up per occurrence. The bad alarms, caused by equipment malfunctions, cost the city an estimated $15,000 annually, city officials say.

SIW Reposts: Texas, Mississippi Launch Alarm Mgt. Committees

Texas and Mississippi law enforcement officials in conjunction with representatives from the alarm industry will soon be forming alarm management committees to help reduce calls from alarm monitoring centers in those states, according to a statement issued earlier this week by the Security Industry Alarm Association.

The committees, which will consist of three police chiefs (members of the International Association of Police Chiefs) and three representatives from the alarm industry in those states, will meet quarterly to develop and implement policies that reduce unnecessary alarm dispatches. As with alarm management committees in other states, these new committees will be primarily focused on the implementation of the IACP model alarm ordinance, as well as the endorsement of a two-call verification system.

In addition to Texas and Mississippi, the IACP has establish alarm management committees in 11 other states including, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Minnesota, Alabama, Virginia, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Indiana, South Carolina and North Carolina.

“There’s a tremendous amount of positive energy generated by these committees because people are coming together from different disciplines and sharing their best ideas and effective practices,” SIAC Law Enforcement Representative Glen Mowrey said in a prepared statement. “I expect the number of these committees to continue to grow as alarm management practices are refined and improved nationwide.”

Pinellas County, FL, to Fine for False Alarms after July 1

Pinellas County, FL, residents and business owners in unincorporated communities or a dozen contract cities will face new fines for false alarms starting July 1.

Those fines could reach $600 per false alarm for repeat offenders who fail to register their systems, authorities said. The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office announced Wednesday that area residents and business owners must now register their alarm systems as part of the long-planned program.

That program could bring the county thousands of dollars in additional annual revenue, while reducing the number of false alarms each year. After receiving more than 14,000 false alarms annually during the past several years, sheriff's Sgt. Larry Nalven said deputies were often pulled away from more pressing duties. 

"Our goal here at the sheriff's department is to reduce the number of false alarms," he said. 

For registered alarms, residents and business owners will have two "free passes" in any 12-month period, authorities said. They will be charged $75 for the third false alarm, and subsequent cases will result in steeper fines. 

For non-registered alarms, the penalties will be harsher. A first-time offender will receive a $175 fine, with repeat offenders facing fines of as much as $600. 

While the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the program at its Feb. 3 meeting, Nalven said his office has worked on the new plan for about a year. 

Pinellas County's program will be the melding of similar policies already in place in Hills­borough County and at the St. Petersburg Police Department, Nalven said. 

Nalven, however, recognizes that every case is unique. 

When it's unclear whether the call is actually a false alarm, Nalven said it's up to the deputies' "experience" to determine whether a ticket is warranted. 

There are repeat offenders in the county, he said, and much of the current problem rests with a lack of alarm system training.

Before July 1, Nalven said his office would work to notify residents and business owners about the switch. 

These efforts will include phone messages and information on the office's Web site. 

When Palm Harbor residents Heidi and George Shimp left their home Wednesday afternoon to return to work, their French doors came ajar. 

The alarm system sounded, authorities were notified, only later to find the house at 810 Wai Lani Road was fine. 

Heidi Shimp suspected the couple didn't fully close the doors.

"Unless someone actually tried to break in," she said.

If this had happened in July, the couple might have been penalized.

"I think it would be a great expense if they started charging that way," Heidi Shimp said, adding that bills from the security company are already expensive. The couple spends about $400 annually on their security alarm, she said. 

But the cost of a break-in can be worse. "Everyone on the street has been hit with robberies," she said.

New Jacksonville, NC, Alarm Ordinance

By outsourcing the management of the new Jacksonville, NC, burglary alarm ordinance to a Texas company, officials the city will line its coffers by more than $200,000 over the next five years and increase proactive police patrolling in the process.

Beginning July 1, residents who have three or more false alarms within a 12-month period will have to pay a fine, starting at $50. Ten or more false alarms will result in a $500 fee for each false alarm.

"The police are responding to some of the same alarms over and over again," Jacksonville Mayor Sammy Phillips said. "When you have police tied-up with a false alarm they can't be where they are really needed."

The contractor that won the bid to handle the alarm management system - PMAM Inc., of Irving, Texas - has a strategy to reduce the amount of false alarms over a five-year period, the length of its contract.

PMAM will provide all the services related to alarm management, absorb the costs and divide the revenue, according to its contract with the city. The estimated income from alarm management controlled by PMAM over the next five years is $337,970, with the city receiving 65 percent and PMAM receiving 35 percent.

There are approximately 3,360 alarm users in Jacksonville, according to city staff estimates. PMAM will be responsible for billing and collecting of fines from all alarm system users.

Jacksonville Police Chief Mike Yaniero said his department has put a lot of time and effort into figuring out how to reduce the need for more police officers as the city grows.

"We are always talking about hiring more officers," he said. "By reducing the number of false alarms we will reduce the need for additional police officers."

Fifty-two percent of false alarms are due to operator error, the analysis data shows. Yaniero calculated that the time spent each year on false alarms due to operator error is equivalent to one police officer's patrol time for a year.

"This is a case of concentrating on the things we can change to reduce that need," he said.

Part of PMAM's duties will be to properly educate alarm users in how to use the systems they've purchased.

Alarm owners in high turnover places - like apartment buildings - are not effectively educating new users how to operate the alarms they are inheriting, Yaniero said.

"They might tell them the code number, but don't tell them about a 45-second delay, for instance," he said. "If we can educate owners to use their alarms properly we can have police officers more engaged in traffic enforcement and proactive patrolling in our neighborhoods."

Burlington, MA, Considers Alarm Law; Nearby Danvers as Example

When a burglar alarm sounds, the police are on the move. 

"We have to take them all seriously. We send two officers minimum to the call," says Braintree, MA, Deputy Chief Russell Jenkins. 

While officers are off on a wild goose chase, checking out false alarms, it could affect your safety.

"When there are calls for service and two officers are tied up, that means someone else is going to get a slower response," says Sgt. Robert Bettencourt of the Danvers, MA, Police Department. 

Our research shows that some of the biggest offenders are big businesses. Last year, the Burlington Mall with 200 stores had 230 false alarms. The Sears store in Braintree had 62 false alarms, and the Lowe's in Danvers had 40. 

"Some technical problems, apathy on the part of the people coming to the business to put in the correct code, not paying attention when they put in the code, " says Burlington Police Chief Frances Hart. 

The town of Danvers has had enough. In January, they hiked the penalties for false alarms way up. 

Businesses used to pay $25 for a false alarm, now the fee is $120. Residents paid nothing. Now they are charged $80. 

And it's working, "The total number of false alarms has dropped 30% so far this year," says Christopher Bruce of the Danvers Police Department. 

The town of Burlington currently has no fees for false alarms. 

Police there say it's time for frequent offenders to pay a price.

"If there are no consequences for the action, the people will thin, well the cops will come out anyway, so we're not going to rush to fix it. We're not going to make any extra effort," according to Chief Hart. 

And there's another problem with these false alarms, and that's officer safety. When police respond to false alarms at the same location over and over, there's a tendency not to take the call seriously anymore. And that could put their lives at risk if there's a real break-in. 

Some cities in other parts of the country are taking even more drastic actions. In Olympia, Washington, for example, police will not respond at all after a business or residence has its fourth false alarm in a single year.

Morgan Hill, CA, Proposes New Alarm Ordinance

As a way to recover some of the cost of responding to more than 1,100 false burglar alarms in the city each year, Morgan Hill, CA, Police have proposed a new registration requirement and more fees for the owners of chronically false alarms.

Details about the possible new rates will be discussed at a city council public hearing May 27. The proposed annual registration rates, which are subject to council approval and could change based on further analysis by city staff, are $25 for residential alarms and $50 for commercial alarms, according to Morgan Hill Police Cmdr. David Swing.

He said the goal of the new rates is to reduce waste in the department, as police repeatedly respond to false alarms that take away from other officers' responsibilities and "creates inefficiency."

"What we'd like to do is recoup some of the cost of service from the limited number of people who use this service," Swing said. "Every residence and business does not have a monitored burglar alarm system, so it's a service (alarm owners) are able to take advantage of that other people don't have."

Another intent of the registration requirement is to ensure police have updated contact information for property owners equipped with alarms, and "to encourage people to be more responsible," Swing said.

The new fees would be added as an amendment to the existing city code relating to burglar alarms, which allows the city to charge property owners for chronically false alarm calls. Swing said currently, alarm owners are allowed one "free" false alarm response every three months. For each false or accidental alarm after that, the owner is charged $140 until the next three-month period begins.

Those fees generated about $30,000 of revenue for the city's general fund last year. Swing said the majority of frequent false alarms are not residential, but instead come from the school district, city facilities and private businesses.

Swing explained that most burglar alarms are monitored by a private company to whom the owner pays a monthly fee. The company is notified every time a subscriber's alarm is tripped, and calls local police.

Most of the time, these companies are unable to tell if the alarm went off accidentally, because of a pet inside the home, for example, or a storm, or an employee at a business who did not know the code to cancel the signal.

At the public hearing later this month, police will suggest reducing the number of free false responses to one per year, Swing said. Unregistered alarm users would not be allowed any free false response.

Because alarms are not currently registered, it is unknown exactly how many Morgan Hill property owners have alarms. However, the department estimates the suggested annual registration fees would generate about $25,000 per year. The additional fees for false responses would bring in about $50,000 to the department, Swing said.

Michelle Matz, owner of the Magpie gift store in downtown Morgan Hill said her alarm system has gone off accidentally on two occasions in recent years. Both times she received a letter from the city saying she would be charged the false response fee if another false alarm happened at her address before the quarter was over.

"Sometimes it's beyond your control," said Matz, noting that one of her false alarms occurred as a result of an earthquake.

She added that an annual registration fee is another overhead cost, and business owners might not like the idea when such costs are already growing.

And Mike St. Cloud, co-owner of Legends Bar & Grill, said an annual registration fee is "nuts." He said he is already losing money because of a list of city-imposed charges and fees.

An annual registration fee for alarms would apply to both existing alarm users and new ones in the city, Swing said. City staff will work with alarm companies to identify subscribers, and those who choose not to register will be sent a notice if and when police respond to a false alarm at that address.

The proposed fees are based on research into similar policies adopted by other police departments in California. Some of those policies are significantly more restrictive than what Morgan Hill is considering. One city, he said, charges property owners $1,500 for each false alarm to which police respond.

SSN Reports: Subs' Credit Scores Impact Value of Accounts

Are you a residential security dealer selling accounts to people with low credit scores? If so, you're probably making a bad investment according to an analysis of the relationship between credit scores, attrition and purchase multiples completed by The Edmonds Group for Security Systems News.

The study shows that if a customer has a credit score below 625, that account is not a good investment. On the other hand, if your customers have credit scores of at least 625 to 650, the account is at least worth what it costs to create, and you can expect a decent rate of return (20 percent unleveraged) on the investment. An account with a credit score between 650 and 675 is worth about 30 times; and if credit scores are north of 700, the account is worth around 40 times.

"There have been times in the industry when the market was frothy and high multiples were being paid for any accounts," said Henry Edmonds, CEO of The Edmonds Group. "In the current market we're finding that there is no market for accounts with Beacon scores [credit scores] below 600 and a very small market for accounts with scores between 600 and 624," he said. 

Edmonds emphasized that the analysis makes a number of assumptions, and changing any of those assumptions, particularly items such as the targeted unleveraged internal rate of return, could change these numbers significantly. However, the "slope of the trend remains the same," he said. The bottom line here is that accounts with low credit scores are "worth much less because attrition is higher regardless."

The assumptions of valuations in this study include: a mass-marketed residential base; bulk sale of accounts versus sale of entire business; transaction includes 10 percent attrition holdback paid 13 months after closing; average RMR of $40; three-year initial contract term; $10 monthly servicing costs including monitoring, billing, collecting and service; attrition is level during any given year, but varies year to year based on contract time; and, a targeted unleveraged internal rate of return of 20 percent.

The Edmonds Group analyzed the correlation between credit score and attrition, one of the key variables in determining the value of an account base or an alarm business.

"Attrition directly impacts the internal rate of return an originator or buyer is able to achieve on their investment," Edmonds said. "If one is not achieving a reasonable rate of return, it's not a good investment." He identified other key valuation drivers as: RMR and gross margin per account; geographic concentration; initial investment amount; sales practices (Was the customer oversold?); and, whether the customer a homeowner or renter.

What trends does Edmonds identify from the analysis? Buyers are less willing to buy accounts with low credit scores (below 600) and they limit the number of accounts they'll buy in other strata. "No more than 10 percent in the 600-625 range," he said. Buyers are stratifying the multiple paid, specifically offering higher multiples for higher credit scores. Most buyers he said, prefer longer initial term contracts because it pushes the end-of-term attrition spike further into the future. An exception to this rule is ADT, he said. "They do not like five-year contracts."

And, finally, buyers are requiring initial payments to qualify customers with lower credit scores. For example, some buyers "will only buy accounts in the 600-625 range if the customer has paid a minimum of $199 upfront."

Duluth, MN, City Council Proposes False Alarm Ordinance

If you're a property owner in Duluth, MN, and your home or business alarm goes off without good reason--you could soon face a fine.

The Duluth City Council is proposing an ordinance that would crack down on false alarm calls. Officials say police and fire crews have dealt with a number of accidental calls lately.

"The goal is again--put some sort of punitive fine in place so that owners of buildings will be a little more careful of perhaps the alarm system they choose or the regulation of that system," said Gary Eckenberg, Duluth City councilor.

Suffolk, VA, to Enforce New Alarm Ordinance on June 1, 2009

On May 6, 2009, Suffolk, VA, City Council heard an update on the false alarm reduction program the city is implementing, and several council members said they’d received numerous complaints from residents about a $25 annual registration fee included in the program.

“The false alarm issue has always been a thorn in our side,” said interim Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Townsend, referring to his lengthy law enforcement career.

False alarms have been a problem in Suffolk for years. In January 1996, City Council amended the city code to establish registration requirements for alarm system owners and false alarm service fees. However, the requirements were never enforced, for reasons unknown to Suffolk Police Capt. Stephanie Burch today.

“We were told to stand down,” she said.

Last year, the issue was dredged back up, and City Council adopted an amended policy in May 2008.

The ordinance requires alarm system vendors and owners to be registered with the police department and with Alarm Tracking and Billing (ATB), a third-party company engaged to track and bill repeat false-alarm offenders.

Alarm system vendors will pay a $100 registration fee annually, while users will pay $25 annually. There also are fees attached to false alarms. The ordinance allows registered alarm owners one false burglary alarm without a charge. After that warning, the second false alarm can result in a $25 fee; the third, $50; and the fourth or subsequent, $100. For a false robbery or panic alarm, the first gets a warning; the second, $50; the third, $100; and the fourth or subsequent, $200. For those who aren’t registered, every occurrence of a false alarm can cost $100.

Robbery or panic alarms are most often used by businesses with large amounts of cash, such as banks, convenience stores, grocery stores, check-cashing and payday loan establishments, or other places that frequently are robbed by armed suspects. They require a more expensive fee, because more officers respond to the calls, and the officers responding use lights and sirens, presenting a greater risk for an officer or citizen to get hurt.

Fire and medical alarms are not included in the false alarm reduction program.

Councilman Joe Barlow said citizens who had contacted him were concerned about the annual registration fee.

“Most people recognize that false alarms are a problem,” he said. “The annual fee caused the most resistance.”

Barlow suggested that the program be implemented as presented, but evaluated next year, with a focus on whether the annual fee is necessary and whether some parts of the program can be done in-house.

Burch said the registration fees are necessary to cover the costs of administering the program. ATB receives $5 of each $25 registration fee – the remainder goes to the city.

Councilman Leroy Bennett said the fees especially put a strain on senior citizens and others on fixed incomes, and inquired whether the fee could be waived for senior citizens and low-income residents.

“They feel like they’re being punished for the abusers,” he said.

Councilman Charles Parr and Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer, however, said the registration fee should be “all or nothing.”

“Whatever we do has got to be across the board,” Parr said.

The success of the program will be evaluated over the next six months, Burch said, and City Council will receive another report at the beginning of the year. Billing for false alarms begins June 1.

To take an online class to learn how to reduce your chances of having a false alarm, visit

CO Detector Law Passes Maine House, Now to Senate

It is a well-known fact that all apartments in Maine must have fire detectors. But soon, carbon monoxide detectors may be added to the list of rental unit must-haves.

A bill that would require carbon monoxide detectors in all single-family homes being converted into apartments or rental units passed in the Maine Senate Tuesday.

The bill, LD 550, was sponsored by Sen. Bill Diamond (D-District 12).

"Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that you can't see, smell or taste. Every year Maine citizens die as a result of this deadly gas. The passage of this bill will help greatly in the prevention of carbon monoxide poisoning," Diamond said in a prepared statement. 

The bill now heads to the Maine House for a vote.

Redding, WA, Sees Burglaries Rise during Recession

When Ilene Taylor opened her skateboard shop in Redding, WA, last December, she never considered getting a security system.

It proved to be a costly mistake.

Taylor's Redding Skate Shop, which she owns with her son, Casey Nelson, was burglarized in March. The thieves made off with about $8,000 in merchandise and stole her laptop computer.

She thinks the culprit picked the lock on the door of the business, which is near Churn Creek Road and Hartnell Avenue, across the street from the Four Corners shopping center.

"The police called at 4:30 in the morning and told us the door was wide open," Taylor recalled. "We drove down and my son - who's a big, burly guy - I was behind him and he just about fainted. I had to catch him.

"I hate to use 'rape,' but you feel that way - very invaded."

It didn't take long for Taylor and Nelson to invest in a new security system, which includes some video surveillance. They also changed the locks in the door.

The mother-and-son business partners are thankful they had insurance, but the break-in was a setback.

"I think it kind of stunted our growth, but we are coming around now. ... But it definitely hurt us," Taylor said.

Redding Police Department statistics show there were 32 business break-ins from January to April 15, a 29 percent decrease from the same period in 2008. However, larcenies - which are all types of theft - are up 12 percent this year.

Redding Police community service officer Mike Leonard said an economic downturn has the potential for an uptick in burglaries.

"People need to survive. ... People who are unemployed need to find money to survive," Leonard said. "Some will be able to do that legally and a percentage will do it illegally."

Leonard said most businesses in Redding have burglar alarms.

"When it comes down to a choice of two businesses that offer similar opportunities, a burglar with any level of intelligence will chose the business that doesn't have an obvious alarm," Leonard said. 

But businesses should also consider installing a video surveillance system, Leonard said, adding that a do-it-yourselfer can install a four-camera system for between $400 to $1,200. Having a security a company do the work could cost significantly more.

Businesses shouldn't be bashful about advertising they have security.

"Put up signs that say, 'Smile, you're on camera,' " Leonard suggested.

"Just knowing that the video camera is up there and knowing what you're doing is being recorded, is a very powerful tool to dissuade people from committing a crime."

NH CO Detector Bill Headed to Govenor

A bill to require carbon monoxide detectors in new homes in New Hampshire is on its way to the New Hampshire governor.

The state Senate approved the plan on Wednesday that would require the detectors in new single-family or multifamily homes and homes that see substantial rehabilitation.

The prime sponsor, Enfield Rep. Suzanne Laliberte, said last December's ice storm showed the detectors are needed.

With power and heat knocked out for days, many residents turned to auxiliary heat, and some of those sources filled homes with deadly carbon monoxide. Fire Marshal William Degnan told legislators there were more than 100 carbon monoxide detector alerts in one week. Four people died from carbon monoxide poisoning in the state last year.

Washington Govenor Signs CO Detector Bill

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire on April 30, 2009, signed a bill into law designed to prevent carbon monoxide poisonings by requiring the installation of carbon monoxide alarms in new construction.

Amy Searight came to Olympia after losing her husband to carbon monoxide poisoning.

"Go ahead, spend $20. Don't have your life changed forever," she said.

Kansas City, MO, to Increase Alarm Fees

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department will increase annual renewal fees from $35 to $40 per false security system alarm beginning May 1, 2009. 

The increase will apply to both residential and business alarm users. Residential users are allowed two free false alarms and will now be charged $40 for each subsequent false alarm up to $120. Businesses pay $40 for each false alarm. Residents and businesses are not required to pay the annual renewal fee if they have had no false alarm. New permit fees have not changed. Police will not respond to alarms not registered with KCPD.

The purpose of the city’s false alarm ordinance is to minimize the number of false alarm dispatches, thereby keeping more officers available for emergency calls. The ordinance defines a false alarm as “an alarm signal eliciting a police response when a situation requiring immediate response does not in fact exist.”