Fewer False Alarms, Better Police Resource Use
Posted on 05/07/2021
A new plan to reduce false alarms could refocus some police time back where it belongs – essentially adding the equivalent of another officer (and then some) back to the crime fighting department. Police estimate 2,192 to 3,208 officer-hours are spent on false alarms each year.
“That’s time that could otherwise be used to address criminal activity,” said Chief Wes Blair.
In 2020 alone, our police and fire departments responded to 2,300 alarm calls. Only 115 of them were legitimate alarms. Those 2,185 false alarms diverted resources away from people in real emergency situations.
To stop the misuse of public safety resources, all alarms will be registered so those with frequent false alarms can be held accountable. But it comes at a cost – a $25 annual registration from all alarm users.
As the technology became increasingly more affordable and more popular, it has increased the demands for immediate public safety response to alarms. The registration fee is paid by those who directly benefit from the service instead of the general taxpayer. When brought to the Council, they had to consider if recouping officer time by reducing false alarms was worth requiring a $25/year alarm permit, and the new ordinance passed unanimously.

“We never take new or increased fees lightly,” said City Manager Scott Meyer. “But we hope the alarm users in our community can see $25/year as a reasonable contribution to help our officers focus where they need to.”
The majority of false alarms are the result of user error, installation error and/or equipment error. Some alarm holders have allowed for over forty false alarm occurrences at their site within a single year. Under the new plan, the first false alarm is free. But then each false alarm will start costing the user, from $50 to $300 per incident.
Of every fee collected for registration or false alarm, 73% returns to the city and 27% is retained by the company for administrative costs. “The outside company was retained because they are experts in the field of alarm collections with the software, mechanisms and staffing in place to perform the service,” said Blair. “Taking that task on internally would require the addition of one to two clerical staff at the police department to perform the same task and potentially purchasing/maintaining alarm registration software.”
Any business or residence that is equipped with an alarm system that dispatches emergency personnel to their location must now register and pay $25 for their alarm within five days of installation. Vehicle alarm systems and life alert systems are not included in this ordinance. The fee schedule will go into effect on July 1, 2021 but alarm holders are encouraged to apply for their alarm permit immediately.