New Orleans Alarm Ordinance to Take Effect May 1

NOPD officials estimate false alarms cost taxpayers roughly $400,000 a year in police resources.

NEW ORLEANS – The police department here will begin enforcing an alarm ordinance May 1 that is intended to significantly reduce a preponderance of false dispatches. The law was first approved in 2015 and requires residents and businesses to pay fines of up to $150 for nuisance alarms from intrusion alarm systems.

The ordinance has been promoted as a means to help the department’s depleted ranks by reducing thousands of time-consuming service calls and to fend off the threat of a non-response policy, the Times-Picayune reports.

The program specifically targets intrusion alarm calls of which the department receives between 44,000 and 48,000 each year, the overwhelming majority being false alarms, according to NOPD records. None of last year’s intrusion alarm calls generated a police report, records show, a strong indication that no crime occurred.

NOPD officials estimate false alarms cost taxpayers roughly $400,000 a year in police resources. And for a department whose struggles with manpower and response times has been extensively documented, responding to false alarms is believed to waste about 12,000 staff hours annually, the Times-Picayune reports.

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“We know that it’s taking a lot of manpower to respond to those calls,” Eric Melancon, NOPD deputy chief of staff, told the newspaper.

The program reduces, from 10 to four, the number of false burglary alarm calls necessary for the department to suspend its response. Violations are issued using a three-tiered structure:

  • Written warning for first false alarm
  • $75 fine for second false alarm
  • $150 fine for third and fourth false alarm: police stop responding after fourth alarm

The false-alarm tally resets each year, and property owners do have the opportunity to appeal penalties. The program requires alarm owners to register their systems with the department. Alarm monitoring companies are required to verify alarms – excluding panic or holdup alarms – before notifying police. Alarm companies can cancel the call to police and not incur a penalty, provided the officer has not arrived at the scene.

“Whether we’re talking about the French Quarter or New Orleans East or Lakeview, people want officers on the streets, engaging with the community (and) responding to real calls for service,” New Orleans Councilmember Jason Williams told the newspaper. “The only way to do that is to make sure we are cutting down waste.”

The City Council in June 2015 unanimously approved ordinance amendments to create the program. City officials later selected Maryland-based Public Safety Corporation’s CryWolf False Alarm Solutions to manage the program, according to the newspaper.

Documents obtained by the Times-Picayune indicate the city expected to spend $397,800 in the program’s first year of operation, and $346,740 the following year. Revenue from fines are estimated to net the city $1.5 million annually.

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