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Sandy Springs Police Chief Proposes Changes to Embattled False Alarm Ordinance

The alarm industry views the Sandy Springs, Ga., ordinance dispute with potential national implications and claims the city’s moves are unconstitutional violations of due process.

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone addressed a City Council meeting Tuesday to propose changes to the city’s embattled false alarm ordinance, including reducing fines and shifting automated alarm calls from the 911 center to the city’s non-emergency call center.

The Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), along with the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & System Association (GELSSA), contend Sandy Springs officials “declared war on the alarm industry and the customers it serves” after the industry challenged a new city ordinance that fined alarm companies instead of customers for false alarms.

The city summarily suspended response to the companies it claimed had outstanding fees.

GELSSA and two alarm companies, A-Com and Safecom, with the assistance of SIAC, challenged the ordinance in U.S. District Court. Shortly after, Sandy Springs suspended response for alarm companies that had not paid fines levied under the ordinance.

At the meeting, DeSimone DeSimone said the city is considering the fine reduction “because we’re really not all about the money,” but rather public safety, reporternewspapers.net reported. The potential for reducing fines is one move with possible legal implications, as the hundreds of thousands of dollars the city has already levied from security companies is a major issue in the lawsuit, according to the website.

Despite the bitter dispute between the city and the alarm industry, the underlying goal of the ordinance is to slash a reported 11,000 false alarms a year — a nearly 100% false rate — by forcing companies to adopt modern alarm-system technologies of audio or video verification that an intruder is inside a property, or at least hire a private security force to check it out first, according to city officials.

DeSimone repeated that call at the April 17 council meeting, suggesting giving companies a year to upgrade the systems, according to reporternewspapers.net.

“A lot of these companies are basically eight-track tape-players,” DeSimone said.

The alarm industry views the dispute with potential national implications and claims the city’s moves are unconstitutional violations of due process. SIAC Executive Director Stan Martin previously said in an interview with reporternewspapers.net that the type of systems DeSimone refers to are expensive, costing thousands of dollars. Martin said that some residents of “progressive” and “high-end” Sandy Springs might be able to afford such systems, but not everyone there or elsewhere can.

City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio raised a similar point to DeSimone, asking how smaller alarm companies can be expected to pay for a private security guard force, then speculating they could band together to mutually hire one, according to reporternewspapers.net.

“They banded together to sue the city of Sandy Springs,” replied DeSimone, “so I guess they can band together to do [hiring of a private security force].”

DeSimone announced at an April 3 City Council meeting that, in response to unpaid fines under the new ordinance, police would no longer respond to automated intrusion alarms from any customer of 39 publicly named companies. Fire alarms, panic buttons and direct phone calls to 911 would still receive a response.

According to regularly updated statistics on the city’s website, as of April 17, only five companies remained on the no-response list for unpaid fines. However, in another example of the move’s confusion, the website also says that seven other companies previously named as among the 39 having their responses cut off were in fact never registered with the city and thus were never eligible to receive response in the first place, reporternewspapers.net reported.

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