False alarm plan comes under fire

WARREN – Critics of a proposal to limit false alarms say the city should not force alarm holders to register with the city.

“The city does not need to know whether I have an alarm system in my home,” Bob Weitzel, president of the Northwest Neighborhood Association, said Tuesday during a police and fire committee meeting. “I’ve had an alarm system for more than 20 years. I am not a problem. I should not have to register.”

Weitzel also criticized potential registration fees that were placed in earlier legislation. However, the latest version of the legislation says the fees only would be applied if the property is documented as having numerous false alarms.

Under the proposed legislation, the amount of the fine is based on the kind and number of calls at that location. Fines can range from $25 for the first fine on a false burglar alarm and $200 for each false panic alarm.

City officials are trying to reduce the number of false alarm calls that police respond to by encouraging property owners and companies to better monitor the systems or face paying fines.

According to police records, officers respond to an average of 3,500 alarm calls a year and about 3,000 are considered to be false. Some of the multiple false alarms are from the same properties.

“I want something that eliminate false alarms, so my officers will only go to situations that are actual emergencies,” police Chief Tim Bowers said. “When officers go to the same location again and again at which there are false alarms, there eventually is going to be a time when the call will be real and the officers will not be prepared.

“Eventually, someone is going to get hurt,” Bowers said.

Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at large, questioned why the city is creating new legislation when it has had a similar law since the mid-1980s that is not being enforced.

Under legislation passed in 1986, people subscribing to monitoring services are required to pay a $60 connection fee and a $36 yearly monitoring fee to the police department and the city’s general fund.

Under the existing ordinance, alarm owners with more than three false alarms are fined $25 per subsequent response. They also may face fines of no more than $500 per incident and / or six months in jail.

Rucker suggested that some other department, such as the water department, could do the billing for the police department.

“Why are we not looking at doing this in house?” she said.

Law Director Greg Hicks said there are companies that will do this job for a percentage of the money collected, so it will not cost the city any money.

Councilman Jim Valesky, D-at large, asked why an outside company would need to be hired if the police already know who the habitual offenders are.

“Why don’t we just give them a ticket?” he said.