F’ville false alarm rule now on hold

Tue, 08/11/2009 - 3:56pm
By: Ben Nelms

More than 80 percent of security alarm calls in Fayetteville are false alarms. A measure to reduce those numbers was put on hold at the Aug. 6 City Council meeting at the request of Police Chief Steve Heaton to give the department time to amend the proposal.

Heaton in initially making the case for a false alarm ordinance in July referenced a study of city alarm calls from April through June. During the three-month period police received 620 alarm calls. A total of 505 of those calls, or 81 percent, were false alarms.

Citing other data, Heaton said that, also during the period, two false alarms were recorded at 44 locations, three false alarms came from 20 locations and 28 locations had four or more false alarms.

Heaton Aug. 6 requested that the item be removed from the agenda to give him additional time to look at similar ordinances used by other cities. Heaton said he had been in contact with an expert from the Georgia Police Chiefs Association who had offered suggestions on how to make the ordinance stronger.

“There are things to consider like enhanced verification calling where the security alarm company makes the verification before officers go out,” Heaton said, adding that he wanted to make sure that the fine schedule is consistent with other localities. “This is not an attempt to generate revenue. It’s an attempt to decrease false alarm calls and fines.”

When first proposing the ordinance in late July Heaton noted the financial and personnel costs to the city that stem from false alarms calls.

“With the downturn in the economy and the subsequent need to reduce the budget, the police department has been monitoring ways to reduce costs and maximize personnel resources. One area that was identified was false alarms,” Heaton said in a July 16 memo.

“False alarm calls unnecessarily utilizes personnel and fuel to respond to verify whether or not the alarms are legitimate. In some instances officers have to wait long periods of time for business/home owners to respond to either reset or disable the alarms,” he said.

“This requires at least one officer to stand by and prevents them from being able to respond to other calls for service or patrol their respective zones. Many cities have recognized that false alarms are a drain on much resources and have adopted similar ordinances.”

As proposed, the ordinance calls for Municipal Court to assess a fine in cases where four or more false alarms have occurred within a 365-day period.

Heaton said he would bring the proposed ordinance back to the council once his research is complete.

Also at the meeting, the council voted unanimously to reduce the fine for failure to pay occupational taxes in a timely manner. The amendment to the occupational tax ordinance lowers the fine imposed when the business tax is not paid. The change, which mirrors the recent move by the state of Georgia, lowered the penalty from $1,000 to $500. Occupational taxes are due on Jan. 1 each year and are considered delinquent if not paid by April 1.

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