Warren council votes down false alarm ordinance

WARREN – A proposal designed to decrease the number of false alarm calls to police and fire from homes and businesses was defeated when three of eight council members failed to vote for it during a vote Wednesday night.

Council members Helen Rucker, D-at Large, Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward, and John Brown Jr., D-3rd Ward, voted against the proposed legislation that would have imposed fines on owners of alarm systems that have police come to their properties on multiple occasions although there are no actual emergencies.

Police Chief Tim Bowers told City Council that department officers respond to approximately 3,200 alarm calls in an average year, with 98 percent of them not being actual emergencies. Many of the false alarms come from the same locations.

Under the failed ordinance, the city would have contracted with an outside agency to monitor all the alarm calls so that fines could be levied against the owners of alarm systems with multiple false alarms.

Some community residents complained the legislation was nothing but a money grab by the city that would hurt some older residents who are not the problem.

“The legislation, as written, does not give officers discretion in deciding whether there is a real problem at the property,” Bob Weitzel, president of Northwest Neighborhood Association, said. “I do not like the appeal procedure because we have to go to police, who are the ones who are responding to the calls.”

Vince Flask, D-5th ward, who sponsored the legislation, said that it had gone through numerous drafts and there were attempts to address many of the concerns that council members and residents brought to him. Registration fees and some of the fines were eliminated that were in earlier versions of the proposal.

However, that was not enough. Rucker questioned why a new alarm ordinance was needed, because a 1986 ordinance is not being enforced.

The responsibility of monitoring false alarms and levying fines was given to the police department in that ordinance. Bowers said it wasn’t enforced because it was not workable.

Brown voted against the alarm ordinance because he believes in local control and the proposal placed its operation to an outside, private company.

Colbert agrees the city has a problem with false alarms, but says it should do everything to solve it in-house, before outsourcing the work to a private company.

Bowers was disappointed.

“We presented a problem to council, developed a solution, and presented it for a vote,” Bowers said. “That is the way the system works.”