Alarm Ordinance in Valparaiso, Ind., Establishes Fines, System Registration

Police say the goal is to serve as a deterrent by giving businesses and homeowners a financial incentive to take whatever steps are necessary to curb the number of false alarms.

VALPARAISO, Ind. — City officials here extended the deadline for residents and business owners to register their alarm systems following the recent passage of an ordinance aimed at limiting dispatches to false alarms.

Alarm owners have until July 31 to register with the police department, which can be done on the department website. Registration renewals will be due annually on March 31.

The department contracted with the Irving, Texas, firm PMAM to handle registration and collecting fees. There is no cost to the department for the program, and any money raised will be split 30% and 70% with the firm and the city, respectively. The money will go into the city’s general fund, not back to the police department, according to the police department.

Under the new ordinance passed by the city council in January, repeat offenders will be subject to increasing financial penalties for false alarms.

The goal, officials said, is to reduce the amount of lost officer time and fuel costs for answering false alarms, which divert resources from where they may be needed more.

“There are a lot of things this policy is addressing,” Valparaiso Police Chief Jeff Balon said via the Chicago Tribune. He added that a registration database will provide police with up to date information to contact someone when an alarm goes off. “Reducing the alarms, that’s our ultimate goal.”

The Valparaiso Police Department spends more than $100,000 on officer time and fuel for false alarms, he added, and the matter has become one of officer safety.

The ordinance outlining the registration and fines also includes alarms for the Valparaiso Fire Department, police officials said, though the majority of the false alarms are police calls.

Last year, police responded to 1,460 false alarms, and the fire department handled 242 similar calls, according to the ordinance.

“Most of our false alarms that we respond to are business, not residential, and it’s mostly human error,” Balon said. Officials said only a small percentage of alarm calls are because of an actual crime or incident.

There is no fee to register alarm systems through July 31, according to the police website. A $25 fee kicks in after the deadline for existing alarm systems.

The ordinance outlines penalties for not registering with the police department, or providing false information, as well as tiered penalties for false alarms, with $75 for the third false alarm in a year. The penalties go up from there, with a $250 fine for a sixth and subsequent false alarms in a calendar year.

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