New York Adds ‘Teeth’ to Alarm Licensing Law


Capping a 15-year-long effort by the New York Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NYBFAA) to stem widespread unlicensed activity, the state has passed a bill to punish individuals who install, service or maintain security or fire alarm systems without a license.

The bill, passed unanimously by the state senate and assembly, amends a 1992 law that instituted alarm licensing but failed to instruct which government agency would be responsible for enforcement and administrating fines.

“The original law had absolutely no teeth at all,” NYBFAA Vice President Ron Petrarca tells SSI. “Enforcing it became a finger-pointing game between the Department of State and the Attorney General. They even tried to pawn it off on the local district attorneys.”

Unlicensed alarm practitioners can now be called before an administrative judge who can impose fines beginning at $1,000 for a first offense to $10,000 for a fourth and each subsequent violation. Unpaid fines can also be turned over for further criminal prosecution.

NYBFAA estimates there could be as many as 7,500 unlicensed alarm practitioners in the state, opposed to about 3,000 licensees.

After the 1992 law failed to thwart the rampant unlicensed activity, NYBFAA made attempts to be a kind of de facto policing body. Efforts have included sending unlicensed individuals a letter explaining they are in violation of the law, along with providing a list of suspected offenders to the state for investigation.

Some individuals are simply ignorant of the licensing requirement, Petrarca says, while many others continue to operate knowingly outside the law without fear of prosecution.

“Of those we contacted, we were somewhat successful in getting them to take the training to obtain a license, but not to the degree I wanted,” says Petrarca, who is an advisory committee member for the state’s Division of Licensing Services. “Many others didn’t even bother to answer.”

After years of futility in trying to close the enforcement loophole in the 1992 law, NYBFAA hired a lobbyist at the beginning of the year to bolster its efforts.

In persuading elected officials to better regulate alarm licensing, the lobbyist used a pronouncement by the state’s homeland security office that said after 9/11 the alarm industry could be a likely attraction to terrorists.

“[The homeland security office] put out a paper saying the industry was a target because terrorists wanted to learn how to install security systems so they could learn how to circumvent them,” Petrarca says. “The lobbyist said based on that statement we could get this bill passed, and he was 100-percent correct.”

The bill, which was first introduced in February, was passed without opposition in mid-June and will go into effect in the fall.

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