Warren debates false alarms

WARREN – Council members are expected today to debate legislation that would fine home and business owners that have multiple false alarm calls.

Efforts to toughen existing laws are due to police having to respond to an average of 3,500 alarm calls a year – about 3,000 of which turn out to be false or don’t require law enforcement action.

“Officers responding to multiple false alarms is not the most effective use of our limited resources,” Councilman Vincent Flask, D-5th Ward, said. “Our goal is to get property owners and the alarm companies to do everything they can to eliminate the false alarms that are due to operator error or mechanical failure.”

When the legislation was originally presented to council in January, critics argued that alarm holders should not be charged registration fees, especially if police have not responded to false alarms at their properties.

Under the initial proposal, registration fees were $25 for residential customers and $50 for commercial customers.

Flask, working with the law department, removed the registration fee from the ordinance. Alarm holders only would be charged registration fees if they have multiple false calls within a one-year period. They also could be fined for having multiple false alarms.

False alarms are recorded when a police officer arrives at an alarm site and finds there was no reason for the call. If the alarm call is canceled before police arrive, it is not considered a false alarm.

Under the proposed legislation, fines for false alarms begin after an identified number of false alarms to the police department. 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 burglar false alarm to $200 for each robbery or panic false alarm.

Police also would be able to monitor and bill those with multiple false alarms or hire an outside firm to do the work.

Councilwoman Helen Rucker questions the need for the legislation.

“I want to know why we need to pass new legislation when the police department is not enforcing what we have now?” Rucker questioned. “Why doesn’t the current legislation work?”

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.

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

Councilman Eddie Colbert, D-7th Ward, said safeguards must be placed to prevent innocent people from being charged unnecessary registration fees or fines.