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Lawrenceville responds to thousands of false alarms with new ordinance, fines for repeat offenders

So far in 2021, Lawrenceville Police report officers have responded to more than 1,000 security alarm calls. Only 2 of the calls weren't false alarms.

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. — Typically when a residential or business security alarm goes off in the city of Lawrenceville, the police department dispatches two officers to respond and investigate.

"There will never be a time where we don't respond to an alarm. However, in the future and moving forward, we want to make sure when we respond to those alarms that it is a good use of our time," Captain Ryan Morgan told 11Alive. 

According to Morgan, each alarm call can tie officers up for at least 30 minutes. 

So far in 2021, Morgan said officers have responded to more than 1,000 alarm calls, and only two ended up requiring officers. 

According to the department, from 2015 to 2019, on average, officers responded to 2,700 alarm calls per year. Each year there was only a single-digit amount of legitimate alarms signaling a break-in or other issue requiring police.

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It is the reason on Monday, Lawrenceville City Council passed a resolution aimed at limiting the number of false alarm calls and mandating fines against repeat offenders. 

"I've struggled with this since the beginning; I'm just not comfortable with it at all," Councilmember Keith Roche said during Monday's meeting. 

Roche represented the only vote against the ordinance, calling it "too harsh."

After being approved by the council, anyone installing an alarm system will need to register it with the city at no charge. Existing alarm owners will register their alarm upon having a false alarm call.

The fines listed in the ordinance differ between business owners and homeowners. 

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Business owners will receive a warning after an initial false alarm. A second violation will result in a $50 fine. A third false alarm comes with a $200 fine, and further false alarms lead to $400 fines. 

Homeowners will receive two free passes, but a third false alarm warrants a $25 fine under the new ordinance, while the owner can receive a $100 fine for a fourth and any subsequent false alarms. 

Morgan said the fines give individuals an incentive to avoid false alarms, but he hopes citations won't have to be written. 

"We want to educate people first and let the fines curtail the bad habits that continue so that we don't waste these officer's time and we can get back to serving the public," Morgan said.

On Tuesday, the Lawrenceville Police Department dealt with finalizing details of how the ordinance will be enforced and how it plans to educate the public. While the ordinance became official on Monday upon being passed by the council, Morgan said the police department won't immediately begin enforcing it until it has time to notify residents and business owners of the changes.