As increasing numbers of cities, town and counties across the US continue to implement alarm registration and false alarm fines, the wise and enlightened homeowner with a monitored alarm system – hopefully that means you! – needs to make sure your system is registered if that is required. You also need to make sure that you are doing everything you can to avoid false alarms. But alarm registration programs in some jurisdictions are starting to take a bigger bite – as demonstrated by this report from Longview, Texas.
Starting today, residential and business users of burglar alarms in Longview will pay more to renew permits for their systems — and for false alarms. The moves are intended in part to reduce the time officers spend responding to alarms caused by malfunction or misuse of the systems. “We spend a lot of time on false alarms, and the majority of them are because of user error or some kind of malfunction,” said Longview police spokeswoman Kristie Brian.
Higher False Alarm Fees
In December , for example, the vast majority of business and residential alarm calls were false. Of a total 430 calls that month, Brian said, 361 were the result of user error or malfunction. Through Tuesday, a property owner was required to pay $100 per false alarm beginning with the sixth in a 12-month period. Beginning today, the city will charge a fee beginning with the fourth false alarm. The new tiered system levies a $50 fee for the fourth and fifth false alarms each year, $75 for the sixth and seventh and $100 for the eighth and each subsequent offense.
Registration Fee Going Up, Too
The second major change that goes into effect today will increase the cost of the fee charged by the city to renew alarm permits each year. The amended fees will be $50 for a residential system and $100 for a commercial system, up from $10 and $50 respectively. “The law has been that amount for several years,” said Brian. He said the increased fee would only apply when a property owner needs to renew his permit, and there is no need to contact the police department beforehand.
Resident Speaks Out
Eddie Towles, owner of Eddie Towles Phone Center on Gilmer Road, said that while he understands the need to cut down on false alarms, the increased costs could prove a burden for some who rely on alarms. “These are all good and they serve a purpose, but they will hurt small businesses,” Towles said.
It Pays to Have a Good Alarm System
He said the increased fees are especially worrisome for companies that can only afford basic security systems, because the less-expensive systems have a higher chance of sending a false alarm. For instance, a system that only responds to motion and not heat might be triggered by an animal moving in front of the camera. “It is another fee that some will have no problem overcoming and absorbing, but others may,” Towles said.
Background on False Alarms
This issue has grown as more people install security systems. In the past decade, the number of security-alarm systems in homes and businesses doubled from about 17 million to 34 million, according to Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, a national industry group. The Texas-based coalition formed in 2003 to address the high rate of false alarms. But homeowners often complain that many jurisdictions have implemented alarm registration and false alarm fine laws, but may not have thought through the process very well.
Of course, once your alarm system is registered, your best protection against false alarm fines is to reduce the false alarms themselves. That’s where having advanced features (such as text and email notifications, remote arming/disarming, and video services) can make a tremendous difference in your favor. You also want equipment that is tested and proven for false alarm reduction: demand UL-listed equipment, and be sure to ask your company about CP01 compliance for your system’s ease of use and lower incidence of false alarms (required for alarm system installations in some states).
As the leader in wireless home security and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US, FrontPoint knows all about false alarm reduction. We use GE Security equipment, which meets the most stringent requirements of UL and other organizations. Plus, we’ll help you get your system registered, if required, and then we’ll work with you so your FrontPoint system works – when you need it to.