West Virginia City Adopts Alarm Ordinance to Beat Back False Dispatches

Residential and business alarm owners will have to register their systems and face false alarm fines.

WHEELING, W.Va. – The city council here unanimously passed an ordinance that outlines rules for alarm owners, along with fines to be paid for too many false alarms.

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Each time the Wheeling Police Department responds to a security alarm it dispatches two officers, leaving a void in the department, WTOV-TV, an NBC affiliate, reported. The false alarm ordinance will require alarm owners to register their system, as well as provide two contact phone numbers to try to identify false alarms before officers are dispatched.

“It’s pretty astronomical the number of responses, I think, a majority of police agencies make to burglar alarms, both residential and commercial, 98-plus percent of which are false alarms,” Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger told WTOV-TV.

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Alarm owners will not be charged for registration but failing to do so could result in a $100 fine. The ordinance will take effect in early 2016. The first nuisance alarm will not result in a fine; however, subsequent false dispatches will be charged between $50 and $400. After nine false alarms, police may no longer respond to the offender’s residence or business alarms.

“With limited staffing, we’re always looking for ways, as part of our strategic plan, to become more efficient, and this is, thanks to city council, is a huge opportunity for us to do so,” Schwertfeger said.

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