Springfield (Mass.) Police Begin Enforcing False Alarm Fine Ordinance

The edict has been on the books but police are now fining for false alarms on a consistent basis. Alarms systems must also be registered with the city.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The police department here is now enforcing a city ordinance — already on the books but inconsistently imposed — that allows it to fine residents and businesses with excessive false alarms.

Ryan Walsh, spokesman for the department, told masslive.com enforcement began at the start of the year and the city is currently generating the bills for the January violations.

Nuisance alarms are a significant drain on police department resources, Walsh said.

In 2017, the police department responded to nearly 14,000 security alarms from more than 3,700 city residences and businesses. Almost 75% of those alarms, more than 10,000 of them, were false, Ryan said.

Each one of those alarms, Ryan said, takes a police officer approximately 15 minutes to check out. In 2017, the police department expended approximately seven man-hours a day running down false alarms.

“It is important to enforce this ordinance so that the number of false alarms are decreased, thereby allowing officers more time to better and more efficiently patrol our city’s neighborhoods,” Deputy Chief William Cochrane told masslive.com.

“If we can cut this by 20, 30, 40, 50 percent it would be a tremendous amount of time for our police officers to do other things,” Walsh said.

Part of the solution for businesses is to better train employees. A lot of the false alarms occur as workers open and close for business, Ryan said.

Other false alarms may stem from maintenance issues, he said.

Fire alarm systems, alarm systems on motor vehicles and alarm systems which monitor temperature, smoke, humidity, or any other conditions not directly related to unauthorized intrusions or attempted robberies do not apply under the ordinance.

Security alarm systems must be registered with the police department. Residents and business get two free false security alarms each calendar year. After that, escalating fines are applied. The third false alarm within a calendar year carries a $25 fine; fourth, $50; fifth, $100; sixth and any additional alarms, $200 apiece.

Walsh said police have not consistently enforced the ordinance in past years largely because of problem in tracking false alarms in the departments records management system. Those problems have since been rectified.

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