Seattle Enacts New Alarm Fees


The new budget passed by the Seattle City Council on Nov. 24 includes new fees on burglar and fire alarms in the city. The new ordinance creates new annual licensing fees of $40 for burglar alarms and up to $320 for fire alarm systems.

City officials had pushed for the fees, citing what they said was too much officer and firefighter time spent on false alarms. “We are, in effect, subsidizing the alarm industry with thousands of hours of city police time,” Seattle Councilman Jim Compton, a supporter of the new fees, told the Seattle Times.

However, alarm companies and their customers in Seattle have cried foul, saying city statistics show a decline in false alarms over the past few years. According to the Seattle Finance Department, the city’s police responded to more than 23,700 false alarms in 2002 compared to 29,100 two years ago. The Fire Department reported nearly 5,100 false alarms last year, down from 6,700 two years ago.

“We understand the budget challenges in Seattle are very difficult. But we believe this is not a well-conceived mechanism to resolve the problem,” Rod Kauffman, executive vice president for the Building Owners and Managers Association of Seattle and King County, told the Times. “What it is, is a hidden tax.”

The new ordinance directs the fees to the alarm companies, which say they will pass that cost to their customers. In addition, alarm companies will now be responsible for a $125 fine for each false alarm. Up until now, the individual alarm owner has had to pay the fine.

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