Bill Passed to Reduce False Alarms, Encourage Permits

MINEOLA, N.Y.

Officials in Nassau County are working to pass a bill that would reduce false alarms by imposing stiffer fines. The bill would also encourage homeowners and businesses to obtain alarm permits to help minimize false alarm fines.

Increased fines and permit purchases could help offset an estimated $6 million in police salaries and expenses the county lost last year responding to false alarms. In 2006, the Nassau County Police Department responded to 107,870 alarms, 99.4 percent of which were false.

Police officials also assured there would not be a “no-response” list, and that authorities would respond to all burglar alarm calls.

The bill calls for four categories of fines: homeowners with valid permits, homeowners without valid permits, businesses with valid permits and businesses without valid permits. Permit holders in each category receive only warnings for their first four false alarms.

“By allowing four free dispatches, something that should certainly be acceptable to alarm users and the alarm industry, only encourages problem alarm users to do nothing to correct the problem,” says Bart Didden, president of the U.S.A. Central Station Alarm Corp. in Port Chester, N.Y., and member of SSI‘s Editorial Advisory Board. “Nationally, the dispatch factor is at about .9, or less than one dispatch per system per year. Setting a goal lower than this will not in the long term produce the reductions that the authorities are seeking to achieve.”

“Fines combined with best practices such as ECV [Enhanced Call Verification] on the other hand produce immediate reductions as well as providing the deterrence,” continues Didden. “While the revenue stream may not be as high, in the short and long term the reductions achieved through ECV will provide dramatic and lasting results.”

Under Nassau County’s proposed bill, homeowners with valid permits would receive warnings for their first four false alarms, then a $75 fine for their fifth and sixth alarms, then a $100 fine for their seventh and eighth alarms, and a $100 fine plus a $100 surcharge to partially cover the cost of sending police officers for each subsequent false alarm.

Homeowners without valid permits would be charged a $75 fine for their first two alarms, $100 for their third and fourth, $100 plus $100 surcharge for their fifth and sixth, and $200 plus $100 surcharge for each subsequent false alarm.

Businesses with valid permits would get warnings for their first four false alarms, $100 for their fifth and sixth, $200 for their seventh and $300 plus $150 surcharge for each subsequent incident.

Finally, businesses without valid permits would pay $100 for the first and second false alarms, $200 for their third and fourth, $300 plus $150 surcharge for their fifth and sixth, and $500 plus $150 surcharge for each subsequent false alarm.

False alarm accumulation includes totals for the year. After one year, any residence or business has its false alarm total reduced back to zero. A three-year permit for a homeowner is $75, while business owners must pay $100. Police officials say permits allow dispatchers to access crucial location informal more quickly, thus increasing response time.

“Many of the issues that the industry has with this legislation could easily have been avoided by communication with the industry,” advises Didden. “The single most commonality of every successful program in the country is open communication between the industry and local government.”

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