L.A. Council Considers Higher Fees for False Alarms

LOS ANGELES

Just when it seemed like the debate over verifying alarms
was near its end in Los Angeles, a draft proposal for a new
alarm ordinance being debated in the L.A. City Council is
raising eyebrows among electronic security companies. While
verified response remains limited – police response only to
verified alarms doesn’t kick in until two false alarms in a
year – the plan calls for much higher fees for a first-time
false alarm than previous proposals.

The new proposal, to be debated by the council in the
coming months, would charge a $115 fee for the first false
alarm and an additional $50 incrementally added for each
subsequent false alarm within a year. An additional $100
would be charged for false alarms on systems without a city
permit. Offenders of a first false alarm would be able to
have it removed if they attended an “alarm school” similar
to how some states allow traffic violators to attend
traffic school to clean their record.

Councilwoman Janice Hahn, who has been an opponent of
verified response, says the new proposal is a compromise
between the alarm industry and those who blame the industry
for the false alarm problem.

“My opinion is what we have now is better than having
verified response,” Hahn, whose brother James is mayor of
Los Angeles, told Security Sales &
Integration
. “Compromise is a good thing.”

Hahn revealed the new plan while speaking before the
monthly meeting of the Greater Los Angeles Security Alarm
Association (GLASAA) on Feb. 17. The revealing of the fee
structure drew an audible reaction from many of the alarm
industry leaders gathered at Studio City’s Sportsmen’s
Lodge Hotel. Hahn says the higher fees are designed to
discourage false alarms.

“There are no free false alarms. We hope this will shock
people into not getting a second one,” she says, telling
those at the meeting that the alarm industry needs to work
together with city and community leaders to find a
compromise solution. “Everybody needs to take
responsibility. I call on this industry to solve false
alarms. This whole process will be a model for the
country.”

George Gunning, of USA Alarm Systems Inc. and past
president of GLASAA, was on the city alarm task force that
helped formulate the new policy. That task force
recommended a $25 fine for a first false alarm, and Gunning
says he’s not happy with the council’s proposal for a
higher fee. He worries that while alarm system users will
be discouraged from causing false alarms, they will also be
discouraged from using their system at all.

“With the punitive amount of money, the client will stop using their alarm entirely. I don’t want to see it happen,” says Gunning, who adds he will be organizing a letter-writing effort and make sure the industry is heard as the council debates the proposal in the coming months.

With her son Danny once working in the alarm industry, Hahn says has insight on the industry that others debating the issue would not, including her mayoral brother. She describes her opposition to verified response as being the biggest disagreement she has had with the mayor of Los Angeles, but says she convinced him to listen to the alarm industry’s side of the issue.

“People try to vilify the industry, but I never see it that way,” says Hahn, who adds that the “wasted time” on false alarms some cite in their support of verified response is exaggerated. “False alarms are sometimes the only time people see a black and white on their street. No one thinks that’s a waste of time.”

Los Angeles has debated a new alarm policy and verified response for nearly two years. The city’s police commission first considered verified response in April of 2002. The commission approved verified response in January 2003, but action by Councilwoman Hahn forced a City Council veto of the policy and formed a task force that included alarm industry leaders to come up with a compromise policy.

The compromise policy had police no longer responding to unverified alarms at addresses with more than two false alarms and was to go into effect Nov. 1 but was delayed by the LAPD after the City Council expressed concerns. The policy was then                               activated on Jan. 1 pending further examination by the council. The draft policy is the focus of that debate.

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