False Alarm Update: Milwaukee, Fremont, Howard County


The city of Milwaukee is considering forcing alarm
companies to hire security guards or train staff to verify
alarms to police. The Milwaukee Common Council will hear a
bill April 12 that is designed to aid the verified burglar
alarm response policy instituted by Milwaukee police HREF=t_ci_newsView.cfm?nid=1877>last September.

The common council’s Public Safety Committee voted 3-1 on
March 27 to send the bill before the full council.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the one
dissention was by Ald. Tony Zielinski, who says the new
measure proves it is best to have officers respond to
alarms. Zielinski has been an opponent of the verified
response policy that was put in place by Police Chief
Nannette Hegerty.

However, during the March 27 hearing, Committee Chairman
Ald. Bob Donovan, also the sponsor of the bill, chided
Zielinski during the session and said the city can’t afford
to waste officers’ time. The Journal-Sentinel says
the bill is expected to pass the full council.

The measure requires alarm companies doing business in the
city to send a trained staffer or a security guard to
respond to any alarm that is triggered and verify it with

During the hearing, representatives of several alarm
companies testified and decried the verified response
policy. “We need to find a way to have police response,”
said Chris Utter, of Waukesha-based Sentra Protective
Systems, according to the Journal-Sentinel.

In other false alarm news …

FREMONT, Calif.: A health insurance salesman who has been a vocal opponent of the new verified response policy in the Northern California city of Fremont is suing the city, saying it broke California’s open meetings law when it discussed the policy behind closed doors.
According to The Argus, Dennis Wolfe says City Manager Fred Diaz solicited and obtained support for the policy during “secret” meetings, which would be in violation of the state’s Brown Act. The lawsuit by Wolfe – who previously gained attention for urging residents to arm themselves in the wake of the new policy – was filed in Alameda County Superior Court on March 23.
Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler instituted a policy March 20 where police don’t respond to a burglar alarm unless resident, property owner or alarm company employee is able to show evidence that a crime occurred.
Fremont City Attorney Harvey Levine denied the city is involved in any wrongdoing, telling the Argus he is “confident the law is on our side.”  Council members have said the decision on the new policy lies squarely with the police chief and that the lawsuit will do nothing to affect the new policy.
Peter Hagberg, the former deputy general counsel for the Oakland, Calif., school district, has come out of retirement to represent Wolfe.

HOWARD COUNTY, Md.:The county that includes the city of Columbia and a portion of the Baltimore metropolitan area is beginning enforcement of a false alarm fine structure that has been law for three years.
Beginning April 1, police will enforce the county’s false alarm law, which includes a $50 after a third false alarm within a year, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The fine increases by $50 for each further offense up to $1,000. An alarm user can have the initial $50 fee waived if they take an online false alarm prevention course. After a fifth false alarm, the alarm company that had installed the system will be forced to make an on-site inspection of the system.
Neighboring Montgomery County has had a false alarm fine structure in place since 1995 – and according to the Sun, false alarms have dropped 55 percent there.

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