False Alarms Trend Downward in Bend (Ore.) After Police Step Up Reduction Efforts

The police department is continuing to send warning letters to repeat offenders and has also started fining homeowners and businesses.

BEND, Ore. – Efforts by the Bend, Ore., Police Department to reduce a preponderance of false alarms caused by alarm system problems being ignored by users appear to be working.

“We are having evidence of people having problems fixed,” Lt. Clint Burleigh, a spokesman for Bend Police, told The Bulletin.

In 2015, there were 2,338 alarm calls, nine of which resulted in an officer taking a report. The year before that, of 2,077 calls, 16 resulted in a report, according to the police department.

The department was down 11.2% in total alarm calls as of Sept. 25 compared with 2015, and down 12.7% in false alarms as of Sept. 25 compared with 2015.

The department is continuing to send warning letters to what Burleigh called “repeat offenders” and has also started fining homeowners and businesses, the newspaper reports.

A Bend city ordinance approved by City Council in 2012 allows a $250 fee for a second false alarm and a $500 fee for a third, but Bend Police weren’t applying it. Under the same ordinance, the department can quit responding to alarms after a third false one at the same place.

A letter is sent preceding the bill, and there is an appeal period for property owners to respond, according to Brandie Swindle, Bend Police’s records supervisor.

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“We do send out a good number each week,” Swindle said of the letters. “People are really responsive.”

Swindle couldn’t say how many letters have been sent out, since the records department hasn’t been tracking them. The department plans to track them moving forward.

City finance handles the billing process, but before that Bend Police’s records department reviews the instances of false alarms. Records department staffers look at whether there was a reasonable excuse: Was there a thunderstorm? Did someone call asking Bend Police not to respond?

“We just want it corrected,” Swindle said of the frequent false alarms. “We’re not wanting to do billing.”

In April, when the report was released, Bend Police Chief Jim Porter said some of the calls were canceled before officers responded, but the incidents have cost the department more than 500 man-hours. Porter says most of the calls are human error, which if fixed, could cause a huge drop in the number of false alarms sounded at a property from one year to the next.

Around the time of the report the department sent letters to every address where a false alarm call was registered in 2015 – about three-quarters of which were businesses – to notify property owners the department would begin enforcement action after a two-month grace period.

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