Fontana (Calif.) Settles Legal Battle With Alarm Association for $173K

FONTANA, Calif.—The city of Fontana (Calif.) has agreed to pay more than $173,184 in attorney fees to the Inland Empire Alarm Association (IEAA) and adjust the police department’s burglar alarm response policy, to conclude a more than two-year legal battle.

In September 2008, Fontana’s city council unanimously authorized an ordinance that allowed the city to fine alarm companies $200 for false alarms for nonmonitored systems and $150 each time a company reported unverified property, intrusion and burglar alarms to the department, reports

The ordinance also permitted the department to switch to a verified response system on alarms, meaning that police would no longer respond to alarm notification calls if there was no audio, video or eyewitness confirmation that a break-in was in progress or had occurred. However, the police department had already applied the system in October 2007, with the consent of the city council.

The IEAA argued that the police department did not have the authority to change the policy; rather, the decision was the city council’s responsibility and required a public vote. In May 2008, a judge agreed with the association, ordering the city to pay its attorney’s fees; however, the city appealed the ruling.

Later that year, the council adopted the verified response ordinance, but the IEAA said the regulation’s definition of a false alarm was contrary to state law. Additionally, the association claimed the ordinance unconstitutionally impressed punitive fees at alarm monitoring companies and unconstitutionally required alarm applicants to waive any challenges to the ordinance.

Earlier this year, a San Bernardino Superior Court judge ruled found some key provisions of the 2008 ordinance to be unconstitutional. Both sides have reached an agreement that each party said was reasonable.

An updated ordinance reflecting policy changes is expected to get final approval on Sept. 22.

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