False Alarm Update: Los Angeles, Des Moines, Chicago, Washington D.C.

LOS ANGELES

A new alarm policy that allows for no “free” false alarms has gone into effect in Los Angeles. As of Nov. 7, a first false alarm at a residence or business will cost an alarm customer $115 and will face an additional $50 added to that fine for each false alarm that follows.

The new alarm ordinance was approved by the Los Angeles City Council on Sept. 21 after a nearly three-year debate over a new policy for the second-largest city in the nation. At one point, a total verified response policy was considered but that was abandoned in favor of a compromise where an alarm at an address with more than two false alarms within the year will need to be verified by someone at the source before police will be dispatched.

Under the new ordinance, the $115 first false alarm fee will be waived if the customer take a two-hour alarm class conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), similar to the driving schools offered for traffic law offenders.

In other false alarm news…

DES MOINES, Iowa: A “no free false alarm” policy similar to the one that recently took effect in Los Angeles has been a success in Des Moines, Iowa, according to officials there.

Police officials told the Des Moines Register that false burglar alarms are down 25 percent and false fire alarms are down 40 percent since the city passed a new alarm ordinance two years ago.

Under the policy, alarm owners are fined $100 for the first false fire alarm and $50 for the first false police alarm. Subsequent false alarms are $150 and $75, respectively.

CHICAGO: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says he plans to push for a “drastic” increase in fines for false burglar alarm offenders in the coming year. Daley told the Chicago Sun-Times the increased fines will be a part of his 2005 budget.

It’s unclear what those new fines would be. The alarm ordinance on the books in Chicago since 1994 allows four free false alarms in a calendar year before charging a $50 fine for each false alarm thereafter.

BALTIMORE: A Baltimore City Council Committee moved to the full council on Nov. 4 a proposal to transfer the annual permit fee charged to alarm customers to the alarm companies that serve them.

The $20 yearly fee was enacted two years ago as a way to reduce false alarms. The council will decide on the measure within the next few months.

While moving that measure on, the taxation committee rejected another proposal that would have made the $20 permit a one-time fee instead of being paid yearly.

WASHINGTON D.C.: The chief of police in the nation’s capital says he wants to crack down on false alarms. Charles Ramsey told the Washington Post that D.C. police are wasting their time responding to 60,000 false calls a year.

The Washington D.C. City Council will consider in the next few months a proposal by Ramsey to set up an ordinance where alarm owners will need to pay a registration fee and fine will be accessed for each false alarm after the third.

VACAVILLE, Calif.: The city council in the Northern California city between San Francisco and Sacramento has unanimously approved an amendment to its alarm ordinance that eliminates any “free” false alarms.

Starting in January, each false alarm will cost an alarm customer $85. In addition, police may not respond to alarms at customers with more than two false alarms within a calendar year.

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