False alarms costly for police and taxpayers
April 25, 2006
Truckee police spend a good portion of each year chasing down false alarms an unproductive activity that is draining the departments budget.Soon, however, some of those false alarms may actually bring the department money under a town code that allows police to penalize repeat false alarm offenders.The ordinance has been on the books for years, but lately the police department has not had time to do the paperwork necessary to enforce the law, said Truckee police Chief Scott Berry.It is an issue when 99.7 percent of your calls are false, Berry said.Wind, spider webs or human error can trigger the alarms, which take police more than 20 minutes to clear.Often, ski lease renters unfamiliar with the security system set off alarms when arriving for the weekend, according to Berry.Last year alone Truckee police responded to 1,195 alarms calls, which equals more than three alarm calls each day. Only three of the calls were break-ins last year, said Berry.The cost of responding to nearly 1,200 false alarms is more than $35,000 annually, Berry said.While the problem has not prompted Berry to consider a blanket policy of not responding to residential and business alarms, the department plans to penalize repeat false alarm offenders when the department gets enough personnel to handle the documentation.
On a third false alarm in 60 days the police department can charge businesses or homeowners $35. For a fourth false alarm within 90 days, the fine jumps to $70. After five offenses in 180 days, the police department can stop responding to the building, according to the town ordinance.False alarms have become a widespread problem across the state, and some police departments have adopted no-response policies on alarms.Fremont, Calif., which has a small police force compared to the citys size, stopped responding to regular alarms calls in March of last year. The department now only responds to calls that are verified by the alarm company or are a panic or duress call on the alarm system.Chief Berry said the department has not contemplated a no-response policy, although the town alarm ordinance gives the department the right to enact such a policy.