San Rafael Aims to Reduce Costly False Alarms


The city of San Rafael is making a concerted effort to trim
down the estimated $250,000 a year it spends on responding
to false alarms.

The city is proposing changes to its alarm ordinance
that include adding an annual renewal process fee; a
procedure to suspend response for alarms during which the
owner repeatedly fails to respond or cannot be contacted;
and a program to revoke alarm permits for repeated
suspensions or failure to pay fines.

“There are always going to be false alarms but we want
to see how much of that $250,000 could be saved and time
and energy directed to something else,” says City Manager
Ken Nordhoff. “We are really trying to go after the most
flagrant abusers and want to ensure we have an accurate
database of emergency contact information.”

San Rafael police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher says the
department responded to 3,224 alarm calls from July 2005
through June 2006.

“Less than 1 percent of those were valid alarms,
meaning burglary, robbery, vandalism or similar-type
incidents that resulted in a police report,” says
Rohrbacher, adding that false alarms burn up several law
enforcement resources. “For every false alarm, a dispatcher
takes the call, a minimum of two officers respond and a
police service specialist handles the paperwork and any
follow-up that needs to be done.”

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