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False security alarms draw on police resources

Renee Shadforth

The Truckee Police Department is going to start cracking down on residents for multiple false security alarms next year.

For the Truckee Police and Nevada County Sheriff’s department, false alarms from residential and commercial security systems constitute many of the incidents they deal with, a big expense for a small town.

In fact, in the first eight months of 2003, the Truckee Police Department responded to more than 1,150 false alarms, costing the town more than $46,000.

“A lot of these false alarms are human mistakes,” said Community Service Officer Ken Yamamoto of the Truckee Police Department.

Starting in 2004, the department will begin enforcing the Town of Truckee alarm ordinance, which penalizes individuals and businesses for multiple false alarms in period of time. For example, if alarm users have three or more false alarms in a 60-day period, they will pay a $35 fine (see sidebar, “Truckee’s alarm ordinance,” for more information).

In the case of an alarm, two officers respond to the location and it takes 30 minutes minimum for the alarm to be cleared. False alarms also tie up personnel, Yamamoto said.

“[The ordinance] will allow officers to spend more time on real emergencies,” he said.

The alarm ordinance is not new to Truckee. In fact, by the time Truckee Police begin enforcing it in 2004, the regulation will be 10 years old.

The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office used to enforce the ordinance before the police department started up in 2001.

“It’s a lot of paperwork, but we used [the ordinance],” said Sgt. Ron Perea from the office’s Truckee substation. “Technically we don’t have to respond to alarms – it’s a community service,” he added.

Perea said the sheriff’s office doesn’t get too many false alarms anymore because it only patrols beyond town limits.

However, Perea said, even if someone called to cancel an alarm, officers would still respond.

“You never know if it’s a smart burglar who called and canceled. We always want to try and outsmart the burglars,” Perea joked.

Weather is another variable in alarm ordinance enforcement.

“To a degree [the police] have to be lenient because of the weather here. We have electricity fluctuations. There are so many nature-related reasons an alarm goes off,” Perea said.

Yamamoto agrees.

“Wind can set off a [security system],” he said. “If I look at a false alarm, and I remember it being a super windy day, we won’t count it.”

Yamamoto said sometimes security system malfunctions are the responsibility of the alarm company. If residential homeowners or businesses are fined because their systems are malfunctioning, alarm companies will usually pick up the fee, Yamamoto said.

Even though part of the ordinance states police will cease responding to alarms after five or more activations in a 180-day period, officers will probably continue to respond.

“I’ll be honest,” Yamamoto said. “I don’t see us not responding. Maybe we can help educate them on how to use their alarm or give them a number to call for more information.”

For more information on the Town of Truckee alarm ordinance, call the Truckee Police Department 550-2328. For more complete information on the town’s alarm ordinance, check out http://www.townoftruckee.com/municode.html, and click on title 9.

Truckee’s alarm ordinance

False alarm penalties

1. For three or more false alarms within a 60-day period, the user shall pay a fee of $35.

2. For a fourth false alarm within a 90-day period, the user shall pay a fee of $70.

3. When five or more false alarms are received within a 180-day period, the town’s police department will cease responding to alarm activations at the alarm location for a period of 180 days or until the department receives satisfactory written evidence from a licensed alarm company that the cause of the false alarm has been determined, the problem has been corrected and that the users of the alarm system have been trained in its proper use.


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