As more and more homeowners choose the protection offered by a monitored alarm system, the cities, towns and counties that respond to these alarms are having a say in how increased police response is going to be funded. After all, more alarm systems translates to more alarms, requiring more police dispatches – and the majority of these are false alarms. The jurisdictions are clamping down.
Non-Response with No Permit
One approach is for the police not to respond if there is no alarm permit on file, and that’s been happening with increasing frequency (see my recent post on St. Louis, MO and Herriman, UT). Now another city joins the list of jurisdictions imposing a permit requirement fee structure: Swampscott, MA, just north of Boston. The article reporting the new bylaw is a classic example of what I am seeing all across the US.
Police Capt. John Alex said the bylaw requires all businesses and homeowners to register their alarms with the police department. Alex said the bylaw was necessary due to the sheer volume of false alarms. He said police responded to 1,009 alarms in fiscal year 2009 and 903 alarms in fiscal year 2010. “There is also a more stringent policy for dealing with repeated false alarms, which will hopefully reduce the number of false alarm calls reported to the police department.” Property owners will not be fined for the first two false alarms in each calendar year, but a $60 service fee would apply to each subsequent false alarm in that year for residential alarms and $80 for non-residential alarms.
What You can Expect
How do most of these alarm registration programs work? Here is the scenario for a typical city’s alarm permit process:
- The jurisdiction requires you to register your alarm system with the police department. There is an annual fee – usually $25 to $30, which is billed to you, the homeowner. Your alarm company should make you aware of any local requirements, and assist you in the process
- The police then provide the homeowner with a permit number. This permit number is passed on to the alarm company, so that in the event of an alarm, the monitoring center can reference the homeowner’s permit number with each request for a dispatch. Without the permit number (as we have seen), the police may not respond.
- The registration also requires the homeowner to “accept” the jurisdiction’s false alarm fine structure. This varies quite a bit, with some cities allowing up to three false alarms per year – and some allowing none. The fines can also escalate with each false alarm: be sure to read the fine print.
- Permits renew automatically, so your jurisdiction will send you a bill each year.
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 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 (required in some states). As the nationwide leader for interactive, wireless home security, FrontPoint knows all about false alarm reduction. We use GE equipment, which meets the most stringent requirements. Plus, we’ll help you get your permit, if you need one, and then we’ll work with you so your system works -when you need it to.