False Alarms Cost Police 150K Annually, City Looks at Ordinance

Sandy Springs is considering an ordinance that would charge a penalty for false alarms, which make up 96 percent of citizen initiated calls.


A look at the numbers shows false alarms are a problem in Sandy Springs. On Tuesday, Police Chief Terry Sult made a case for a proposed false alarm ordinance to Mayor Eva Galambos and City Council members. The ordinance would charge a penalty for false alarms at homes and businesses.

“So often when we get to an alarm, we get there and we have no one to contact,” Sult said. “...This would give our 911 center the information to provide to the officer when they are out at the scene.”

According to the Police Chief, 20 percent or up to 46,000 calls that police respond to each year, come from citizens. Ninety-six percent of those calls are false alarms. That’s about $150,000 annually.

“That’s an awful lot of time we have spent answering calls, and people are not taking accountability or responsibility for either correcting their alarms or using their alarms properly,” Sult said

Alarm system registration would be necessary under the ordinance. There would be no registration fee but if police or fire responds to a false alarm and the system has not been registered, the resident or business would be charged $100. Penalties for excessive false alarm calls would range from $50 to $500.

If an alarm goes off and is deactivated before police or fire arrives, no penalty would be assessed.

The police department would allow two false alarm calls without penalty. The fire department would allow one.

The city would hire a private company as a alarm administrator to ensure the ordinance is adhered to.

The ordinance was previously proposed to City Council but rejected out of a concern for citizens’ privacy, Council members said.

“…I don’t want anybody selling information as to which houses aren’t registered, inferring that they’re not protected,” said Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny.

Sult said prospective alarm administrators would be scrutinized. “The city would will own the [submitted] data and control it,” he said, adding that city computer systems are periodically audited.

The ordinance is modeled after the City of Marietta, where public safety officials have seen a 70 percent reduction in false alarm calls. Dunwoody and Johns Creek, which share ChatComm services with Sandy Springs are looking at similar ordinances.

The proposed Sandy Springs ordinance does not include robbery alarms, panic buttons that set off alarms or emergency medical responses.

If passed, the city would launch an educational campaign on alarms and allow 90-120 days for folks to register their alarm systems.

Suzanne Baxter October 19, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Hmmm. Wonder how much the company which provides the alarm administrator would cost. Bet it will be at least $150,000 but most likely even more. No savings.
Adrianne Murchison (Editor) October 19, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Thanks Suzanne. The Chief said the penalties would pay for the cost of the operation and the point of the program would not be to go after profits.
Enuff Govt Already October 20, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Maybe get that Smart911 company to work on this problem instead seeking a fee (tax) from residents or would that cause Smart911 to raise their fee to the city? If the city collected the info without a charge to the residents and businesses could the info be loaded onto the Chattcom computer instead of creating another city administrative fuction? Could it also be viewed as only those able to afford the fee get a police response to their alarm? And what if the alarm companies change the type of all their alarms to "robbery alarms, panic buttons that set off alarms or emergency medical responses"?


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