False Alarm Update: New Jersey, Virginia, Georgia

PRINCETON, N.J.

Two towns in New Jersey have put a temporary hold on plans to raise fees for excessive false alarms. The Princeton Borough Council withdrew a proposal to add large fines for false fire alarms, while the city council in Lambertville postponed a similar fine hike for false burglar and fire alarms.

According to Packet Publications newspapers, the Princeton council was alerted by the borough’s fire marshal that the proposed ordinance revision might not be legal. The Princeton proposal added a new annual alarm registration fee of $150 for fire alarm systems and would charge an additional $500 fee if more than four false alarms were recorded the previous year. There would also be a $500 penalty for property owners who fail to register or renew a registration after receiving written notice from the fire marshal.

Princeton Fire Marshal Bill Drake questioned that provision, saying the individual who failed to register an alarm must pay the fine without a summons and municipal court hearing, which would deny that person’s due process rights. The Borough Council withdrew the proposal Oct. 26 but said it will likely be revised and reintroduced at a later date.

The Lambertville council cited a need to meet with business leaders as reason to delay a vote on its own proposal for higher false alarm fines. Along with new alarm registration fees, the Lambertville proposal would increase fines to $250 for a second false alarm and $500 for a third and everyone thereafter in a calendar year.

The council agreed recently to postpone a vote on that proposal until meeting with the city’s business leaders on how they would be affected by such a fine.

In other false alarm news …

LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va.: The Board of Supervisors in Loudoun County, Va., Is considering an ordinance to require burglar alarm users to register with the county and set up a false alarm fine structure.

The proposal would fine users $50 for a third false alarm, and fines would increase up to $1,000 for residential users and $4,000 for business users. It would take 23 false alarms for a residential user and 73 false alarms for a business to reach their respective maximum fines. A sheriff’s office official says the fine structure is modeled after that of nearby Montgomery County, where false alarms have dropped 50 percent.

The board voted Oct. 26 to consider the ordinance at a later date.

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga.: The alarm administrator for 911 services for Clayton County, Ga., says the current alarm ordinance isn’t working to stem false dispatches to burglar alarms.

According to the News-Daily, Beverly McMichen says the county received about 9,000 alarm calls, 80 percent of which were false, between June and September. The current ordinance charges alarm owners $50 for each false alarm call after a third.

Because of a request by 911 Services, the Clayton County Commission plans to review the ordinance in November.

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