Sandy Springs Tweaks False Alarm Ordinance Before June 19 Effective Date

Security dealers and monitoring alarm companies must provide “true verification” through audio, video or in-person verification, and prior to calling 911.

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — On June 19, the police department here will begin enforcing the city’s contentious alarm ordinance, which now requires “true verification” of intrusion alarm activations before public safety dispatch is requested.

At its May 21 meeting, the Sandy Springs City Council voted 6-0 to approve the verification amendment. It will give alarm companies one day to present evidence to prove a false alarm is legitimate after all.

The new rule means Sandy Springs police won’t respond to any intrusion alarm unless they are told by the monitoring company that they have video or audio proof an actual burglary is taking place. After police respond to the alarm, the company will then have 24 hours to submit that proof.

Automatic response remains for fire, duress, panic button, holdup, and medical alarm activations.

“It’s not, ‘You’ve got 24 hours to let us know and we’ll send the police out there,’ because that’s over and done within the next three or four minutes. This is an allowance to the companies to be able to provide [evidence] if they can find it later. It’s like the homeowner comes home, and they have a camera that the company doesn’t have access to and they can show something. ‘Bring that in,’” City Attorney Dan Lee told mdjonline.com.

Ordinance Background

Sandy Springs adopted its first alarm ordinance in 2012, with the goal of reducing the large number of false alarm calls into the 911 center. The original ordinance fined alarm customers for false alarms. While there was a decrease during the first year of the ordinance, the city claimed in subsequent years there was no substantial decline in call volume.

In 2017, with false alarm calls still averaging 10,000 per year, the City Council revised the alarm ordinance, placing fines on the alarm companies. The trend of high call volume with 99.5% of alarm calls false alarms continued, according to the city.

In March 2018, after the council approved amending the ordinance to shift the fines for false alarm violations from the customers to the alarm companies for the false alarms they reported to 911 on behalf of their customers, the companies and the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) filed a federal lawsuit against the city.

The lawsuit claimed the ordinance violated the alarm companies’ constitutional rights by fining them for the false alarms. The lawsuit was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge in December, and it is under appeal.

The alarm companies will be subject to fines for false alarms — a cost that most expect will be passed along to customers. If the false calls continue, the city will stop responding to all of the company’s customers.

SIAC Executive Director Stan Martin has previously referred to fining companies instead of homeowners for false alarms is “like sending Ford Motor Company the speeding ticket.”

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