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False Alarm Fine Increase Led to Reduction in Dispatches, Memphis Police Say

The increase in false alarm fines has resulted in a 20% reduction in false alarms since a new ordinance went into effect.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — City officials here are crediting an increase in false alarm fines with a reduction in police dispatches to nuisance alarms.

According to city statistics, the Memphis Police Department responded to nearly 62,500 alarm calls in 2016. Among those, only 458 alarms were said to be valid. The remainder — or 99.2% — were deemed to be false. That amounted to more than $1.7 million spent and 63,952 hours in response time.

A little more than half (51.8%) of the alarms calls in 2016 originated from commercial properties, including restaurants and convenience stores, according to the city’s website.

City leaders criticized a lax false alarm ordinance for the high number of false alarms. A review process led to the city’s Metro Alarms office to revise an existing ordinance, created in 2003, to help deal with the wasted time and money in false alarm calls. This included increasing fines for false alarms.

Starting July 1, 2017, fines increased to $140 for false police alarms (after two strikes, where the person gets off with a warning) and increased fines for false fire alarms to $300 (after one strike.) Every July 1, the alarm owner starts over with a clean slate.

The increase in false alarm fines has resulted in a 20% reduction in false alarms since the new ordinance went into effect.

“We don’t want to collect any fines,” Tiffany Collins, an administrator with Metro Alarms, says via the city’s website. “The goal is to have officers on the street responding to immediate needs. We want to get everyone to the point where their alarm system is functioning properly and people understand how to prevent false alarms.”

Money collected from the fines, including false fire alarms, goes back to those same departments to help repay the costs from those resources. This year Metro Alarms will be able to reimburse police for the total amount of money spent shy of about $100,000, Collins says.

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