Why a Legal Challenge to Sandy Springs’ (Ga.) Alarm Ordinance Is Necessary

The SIAC needs help from the industry to protect alarm companies from false alarm fines.

There is no lack of activity to report from the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) and our work to positively impact false alarm dispatch reduction and alarm management at the local, state and national levels.

None of SIAC’S current efforts are more pressing than in Sandy Springs, Ga. In July, the city passed an ordinance that requires alarm companies to bill, collect and foot the cost for alarm-user fines.

The new legislation took effect Sept. 1, and at press time the first invoices were to go out on or about Oct. 1. It is not clear if these invoices will be sent to the alarm company or to the central station.

In addition, Sandy Springs Police Chief Kenneth DeSimone is actively promoting “his” ordinance to Atlanta area police chiefs, as well as the Georgia State Associations of Chiefs of Police (SACOP) Alarm Committee. However, the SACOP alarm committee does support the alarm industry’s position.

Halting Security Company Fines

The industry has identified a preferred legal counsel and is attempting to mount a campaign to fight the most onerous elements of the Sandy Springs ordinance.

But the funding goal we need to meet is six figures — and the commitments are slow in coming. SIAC has agreed to be the collection point for these funds and to distribute the dollars to counsel. One-hundred percent of all funds will go directly to the effort with no administrative charges.

Adding to the uncertainly in Sandy Springs, there have been reports that if a security company fails to submit even one fine for one dispatch response, then all of the company’s customers will be suspended. It is interesting that when Chief DeSimone was still communicating with the industry, he initially proposed accepting only dispatches to video surveillance and audio alarm systems.

However, his rationale was if an alarm that receives higher dispatch priority turns out be false, then he would charge the monitoring station criminally. Fortunately, we were able to have this ridiculous criminal element removed from the ordinance.

Based on our past efforts in California, we are confident that if we act quickly we can stop this burdensome requirement for collection of fines in Sandy Springs, and elsewhere. Similar issues are being addressed across the nation and the activity level is extremely high.

Along with Sandy Springs, the following jurisdictions are also looking at amending their response positions: Memphis, Tenn., Prescott Valley, Ariz.; Kent, Wash.; and, Portland, Ore. In Colorado, officials in Aurora and Colorado Springs are also looking at amending their response positions. It is not clear to what degree this will be structured, but SIAC is in contact with both cities.

As a refresher, Aurora was the first city in Colorado that adopted a nonresponse position. Colorado Springs maintained its alarm response policy, but only if there were no other calls waiting dispatch. In related news, California joined Florida and Texas by passing statewide legislation prohibiting fining alarm companies for customer false alarms.

Credit goes out to ADT and the California Alarm Association (CAA) for getting this beneficial legislation passed. Kent passed an ordinance that highly limits daylight dispatches to intrusion alarms at commercial occupancies. Portland is revisiting a stricter response policy, although there are no details at this time. Historically, this issue comes up every few years there.

Funding Needed to Wage Legal Battles

SIAC continues to make contacts daily with law enforcement officials across the nation. The single biggest issue is Sandy Springs. Litigation is always expensive and there is a shortage of funds. SIAC has agreed to be the collection point for this cause and we encourage all industry stakeholders to make donations.

The Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association (GELSSA) is coordinating activities and, again, 100% of all funds will be used for this legal battle. We need to support Georgia or this policy of fining companies will spread without question.

Please consider donating by going to siacinc.org and click on the donate button. While on the SIAC website, sign up to receive SIAC news and updates daily via email, which will allow you to stay informed on pressing issues. There is no charge to sign up for this service. You will also have access to SIAC’s blog, again at no cost.

Stan Martin (stan@siacinc.org) is SIAC’s Executive Director.

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