Police in Renton, Wash., Hope to Fight False Alarms With New Rules

Registration fees and fines for repeat false alarm offenders is part of an ordinance passed last year by the Renton City Council.

RENTON, Wash. — Newly implemented rules here mandate that owners of residential and commercial alarms are now required to register their monitored systems with the city and pay a one-time $25 registration fee.

The move is part of an ordinance passed last year by the Renton City Council to decrease dispatches to false alarms and free up police time and resources, the Renton Reporter reports.

The false alarm ordinance, approved in late December, changed from its original wording, which would have required all monitored alarm owners to obtain a permit. The registration process was easier than permitting and also offered more legal protection for the city, the Renton Reporter previously reported.

All registered users will have a 90-day grace period, which began May 1. The users will then be allowed one false alarm call, and after that, the user is charged $100 for one false alarm, then $250 for three or more false alarms in the same year. After eight, the user is charged another $250 and their registration is removed.

Residents or business owners who don’t register their monitored alarm system will receive a $50 fee.

The registration requires annual renewal at no charge, and registrations are non-transferable. Those users who currently have alarm permits are required to register the system.

According to the police department it has been sending two officers to every possible break-in. In 2016, it cost the Renton Police Department $357,235.79 to respond to alarm calls. On average, it costs the city $350,000 a year in unproductive staff time. False alarms in 2017 and 2018 were not tracked because there was no false alarm program.

“You’d rather have (officers) patrolling at night, having an active presence in the area, than being pulled to a building downtown three times a week because an alarm is going off,” Councilmember Armondo Pavone said in a previous interview. “This is not an attempt to generate revenue. This is an attempt to stop a small percent of users who cause this to take care of their systems.”

Another goal is to stop those users from alarm negligence. Pavone said that 20% of alarm users caused 80% of the false calls, the newspaper reports.

In a previous article, Renton Police Community Programs Coordinator Cyndie Parks said the previous alarm ordinance has been inoperable since 2016 because of outdated wording. The department began working with a private company to create a new alarm ordinance that would follow other cities’ false alarm ordinances, like Auburn and Bellevue.

The police department’s False Alarm Reduction Program is managed by third-party vendor CryWolf False Alarm Solutions.

“After a few years of research, it was recognized the city needed a more cost-effective option to offer the public, which lead us to partner with a private company to manage these efforts,” the Renton Police Department states on its website.

According to the police department, an appeal process will be available for users who feel fines or fees were unduly assessed.

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