Pennsylvania City Lowers False Alarm Fees

Scranton officials hope the lowered fees will encourage property owners to comply with the ordinance and make a stronger effort to reduce false alarms.

SCRANTON, Pa. – Officials here have lowered the price on false alarm fees in an effort to get property owners to pay up.

Currently, 61 property owners owe a combined total of $108,005 in false alarm fees that they accrued in 2013, The Times-Tribune reports.

However, it’s been difficult for the city to collect the fees because property owners refuse to pay. For example, the James Avenue Complex owes $16,000, while the Covenant Presbyterian Church and Court House Square Ventures owe the city $6,000 and $4,500, respectively.

Under the former ordinance, property owners had to pay $500 for the second and third false fire and security alarms. It cost $1,000 for the fourth false alarm and up.

The new ordinance, which was approved in July, the first two false alarms are free. For fire alarms, the fee is $250 for the third and fourth alarm, $500 for the fifth, and $1,000 for the sixth and up.

For security alarms, the third and fourth alarm is $100, the fifth is $250, and anything over five is $500.

City officials maintain that the ordinance was not meant to be a revenue generator; rather, an effort to encourage property owners to maintain their systems to reduce false alarms.

In 2013, the police responded to 2,347 false alarms, while the fire department responded to 797 false alarms. Both departments voiced that responding to false dispatches takes resources away from real incidents.

When the initial ordinance passed in 2012, there was a penalty of $3,000 or imprisonment for up to 90 days if the property owner did not pay the fees. It is unclear why city officials never took further action to collect the fees.

The revised ordinance has the same penalties; however newly instated city officials said they will be prepared to take legal action if property owners continue not to comply.

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