Alarm Ordinance Promises to Reduce False Alarms in City of San Rafael

SAN RAFAEL, Calif.

In an earlier story, San Rafael Aims toReduce Costly False Alarms, dated Aug. 10, SecuritySales & Integration covered the city of San Rafael’sefforts to curb false alarms that was costing the cityupwards to $250,000 a year. As outlined by the city of SanRafael’s Web site, between 2005 and 2006, 3,224 alarm callswere received by the city, 708 which were canceled prior todispatch. Twenty-six of the remaining 2,516 involved validburglar alarm signals, leaving a total of 2,490 alarm callsas false. The resulting cost to the community is allegedly$253,756, or the equivalent of two full-time policeofficers.

In a meeting held on Aug. 9 by Chief Tom Simms of theSan Rafael Police Department, Captain Mike Keller addressedthe issue of a draft ordinance designed to curb falsealarms in the city. He explained that a date had not yetbeen set for Council to review and vote on the proposedordinance.

According to the city of San Rafael’s Web site, MargoRohrbacher and Peggy Ruge introduced the process and costsassociated with a typical alarm when received by a validcentral station facility.

By the time a police dispatcher enters the call into thesystem and dispatches a police cruiser four minutes haselapsed. The assigned cost for this portion of the overallcall, according to San Rafael, is $5.75. By the time policerespond and a police officer contacts the alarm systemowner or contact, 20 minutes has elapsed, costing thedepartment $75.83.

An additional step introduced into the process, asoutlined by San Rafael’s Web site, involves a publicservice officer’s review of the alarm call. During thistime the officer will determine whether the alarm system islicensed by the city and whether the alarm was false. If itwas false, the officer must then write warning letter orissue an invoice. This step is estimated to take 10 minutesand the assumed cost to the department is $20.31. Accordingto Rohrbacher and Ruge, the overall cost of a single alarmcall to the city is $101.91.

Part of the proposed changes involve altering thesection of the existing alarm ordinance to include amisdemeanor charge for those who install or fail toregister their alarm system. An annual renewal process willalso be established with a recurring, annual fee to thealarm owner. The listed response time of 60 minutes willalso be reduced to 45 where it involves permit holders.

Another change on the horizon if those already proposedare enacted by the city of San Rafael involves how alarmcompanies do business within the city. Alarm companies musthave a valid San Rafael business license and will berequired to verify permits before installing an alarmsystem.

Those who assume ownership of a property equipped withan existing burglar alarm system will also be required totake out a new alarm permit, eliminating fee transfer ofthe system. Property owners are also required to notify thecity when changes have taken place to their licensed alarmsystem, including when the system is removed. This, too,will require a fee by the city of San Rafael. Externalnoise-makers must also be reduced in time duration from 30minutes to 20.

Also attending the meeting was Jon Sargent, president ofthe California Alarm Association (CAA) and Industry/LawEnforcement Liaison for the Security Industry AlarmCoalition (SIAC). Sargent offered to look at the languageof the proposed ordinance and to work with the city indrafting additional requirements mandating the use of alarmpanels that comply with the CP-01 alarm standard as well asSIAC’s Enhanced Call Verification false alarm solution.

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