False Alarm Update: St. Louis, Fort Worth, Baltimore


Add the city of St. Louis to those considering a verified response burglar alarm policy. City officials have drafted a new alarm ordinance where St. Louis police would not respond to an alarm unless it is verified.

Unlike proposals in other cities, where the property owner could verify alarms, the St. Louis policy directs that the alarm company must send out a person to verify the alarm before police respond. Verified alarms would be in place for properties that have had four or more false alarms.

“You can actually tabulate that 30 officers in St. Louis are dedicated totally to answering false alarms, and it’s a very unfortunate set of circumstances,” St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa told KSDK-TV, adding that he estimates 99 percent of the 50,000 alarm calls received yearly by his department are false.

The new ordinance, currently under review by the city councilor, also calls for alarm companies to handle the paperwork and collection of fines. John Butler, owner of Butler-Durrell Security and an official with the Alarm Association of Greater St. Louis, expressed disapproval of the proposed policy to KSDK.

“We want the city of St. Louis to be known as a safe place for people and taking police response away is not going to increase safety in the city of St. Louis,” Butler said. “Keep in mind, the city of St. Louis is a large geographical area. It is virtually impossible to give the same response time with private guard service as it is with the police department. Even if they get to the location, they are unarmed and have to call for police. By that time, they are rather ineffective.”

FORT WORTH, Texas: City officials in Fort Worth approved on Nov. 11 a plan that backs off verified response but would still restrict police response to private security alarms to homes and businesses that hold city permits. The “no permit, no response” plan would also increase fees for false alarms but doesn’t include an earlier proposal that would have eliminated police response to alarms that could not be independently verified.

City council members are expected to vote on the plan Nov. 18 and will also likely to appoint a residents committee to review police response to false alarms. “This has the potential to reduce false alarms,” Police Chief Ralph Mendoza told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I do not believe it will match what ‘verified response’ would have done for us.”

BALTIMORE: The Baltimore Sun reports that residents in the Maryland city are “irate” with a year-old alarm ordinance that imposes fines that gradually increase with each false alarm.

Baltimore alarm system users pay an annual registration fee of $20. Alarm companies pay $50 to register annually, and companies that do not register are fined $1,000. As for false alarms, fines to residential and commercial users kick in after the first two false alarms. For residential users, the fines range from $50 for the third false alarm to $1,000 for the 14th. Businesses pay as much as $2,000.

“People are irate about it,” Baltimore Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., who was chairman of the taxation subcommittee that studied the false alarm issue last year, told the Sun.

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