MONTGOMERY, Md. — Montgomery County (Md.) saved more than $1.3 million in 2011 by reducing the number of false dispatches responded to by county police, according to a news report.
In a given year, county police receive about 30,000 calls for alarms at private residences and commercial businesses, many of which are false, reports Gazette.net. Due to the drain on police resources spent responding to unwanted alarms, Montgomery County police enacted a system of fines and penalties in 1995 to reduce the number of false alarms each year.
The department’s False Alarm Reduction Section has saved more than $22.3 million in police resources, section Director Norma Beaubien tells Gazette.net. She estimates the county’s false alarm average has declined nearly 70% since 1995.
“We’re very, very proud. But we’re even more proud of the actual hours that we were able to save for officers to engage in other police activities,” Beaubien says. “Any time an officer goes on a false call they are taken off the street and are unavailable to respond to a real crime. That’s a problem.”
Since 1995, Beaubien estimates the section has saved about 200,000 work hours for patrol officers — including 9,233 hours last year — by reducing unfounded alarms. The section has been so effective that this month Beaubien’s staff received an award from the False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) for significant reductions to commercial and residential false alarms from 2008 to 2011.
Educational outreach efforts are also credited for the county’s continued false alarm reduction rate. Although fines are not imposed on alarm users for the first false alarm in a given calendar year, the homeowner or company will receive a warning from the section after the incident that includes tips to prevent future false alarms.
“After two or three false alarms we’re making a call to the owner to see if [they] know why these alarms might be going off so often and, if not, then we’re calling the alarm company itself,” Beaubien says. “It affects their bottom line as well.”