Atlanta-- Sandy Springs is now joining a crowd of Georgia cities who are fining alarm system owners for excessive false alarms that result in police or fire dispatches. Johns Creek and Dunwoody are set to follow. Lilburn, Watkinsville and Marietta already passed ordinances trying to combat the calls.
Most of them require system owners to register with the city, then pay a $50 fine after the third false alarm call triggers a response by police or fire department. The fines can rise to hundreds of dollars for repeated offenses, with $100 being the first fine for an unregistered user with a false alarm dispatch. The first fine levied can be waived if the user completes an alarm system education course.
"It has been a tremendous relief, we have seen a dramatic reduction in the amount of false alarm calls we receive," said Marietta police Officer David Baldwin.
Several officers are required to respond to each call. At one point before their ordinance passed, Marietta Police said false alarms accounted for 98% of their alarm calls, at a cost of nearly 4000 man hours and $135,872 taxpayer dollars. And they haven't stopped.
"We'll get multiple alarm calls during the day and at times we'll get multiple alarm calls at one time," Baldwin said.
After the Marietta ordinance passed, false dispatch calls went down to about 32% of all alarm calls. That's what Sandy Springs is hoping for. Their new ordinance will start in the first few months of 2013. Sandy Springs Police are also hoping it will keep their officers sharp.
"It's only human nature that if you do something too many times you tend to regard it as ordinary and routine," said Sandy Springs Police Captain Steve Rose. "And that's something you don't want to do with an alarm call, because that could be dangerous not only to the officer but the homeowner."
LOUD Security systems owner John Loud helped write many of the city ordinances as the leader of the Georgia State Alarm Association. He said the fines are required to spur a change in behavior. And he said fewer false alarm calls are good for all sides, because his subscribers get better service if their first responders aren't tired of too many false alarms.
"I really believe it's good for the subscriber, it's good for the municipality, and it's good for the alarm company," Loud said.