Oakland May Not Respond to Alarms


Besieged by escalating violent crime and dwindling resources, Oakland Police is the first big Bay Area law enforcement agency to consider no longer responding to every burglar alarm.

The plan, similar to one proposed in Los Angeles and under consideration by several departments in other states, is among a handful of ideas the Oakland Police Department is considering to free police to deal with violent crime, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Another idea is to charge residents and business owners a fee for each false alarm over a certain undetermined limit.

Currently, Oakland does not charge for excessive false alarms but does place problem homes and businesses on a nonresponse list if they experience more than four false alarms in six months.

The new alarm ordinance is expected to be unveiled in the coming weeks, the newspaper reported.

Oakland Deputy Chief Michael Holland said the alarms are stretching already depleted police resources at a time when the department is struggling with new budget constraints. “I’m not dismissing (any options) because it’s costing over a $1 million to respond each year,” Holland told the newspaper. “We need to find a solution; this is not acceptable.”

But if the response in Los Angeles is any indication, any move to cut back service in Oakland would likely meet stiff opposition.

Marion Lee, a crime prevention block captain in the Redwood Heights neighborhood of Oakland, said residents expect police to respond to all alarms. “I’d feel pretty upset if they wouldn’t respond after the alarm company calls,” Lee said in the article. “If they didn’t respond, that would just add to our problems. We’re already dealing with problems like armed robbery.”

Oakland police Sgt. Donald Williams said there are close to 40,000 false alarms a year in the city, about a 30 percent increase from 10 years ago, the article stated. He said taxpayers end up subsidizing people’s faulty alarms because they tie up police resources.

San Francisco is also updating its burglar alarm ordinance to include fees and registration permits for alarms. But Diane McCarthy, alarm ordinance manager for San Francisco, thinks the city can bring down the number of false alarms without resorting to cutting service.

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