Press Editorial

April 13, 2009

By Staff


False alarm ordinance has merits, concerns

Members of the City Council’s Services & Operations Committee will consider a proposal April 16 that could cut down on wasted dollars and effort by the Issaquah Police Department. Though the proposal would allegedly improve efficiency for the department, questions remain about the proposal.

In 2008, officers responded to 1,035 burglary, robbery or duress alarms, according to police figures. A whopping 99.2 percent of the alerts were false alarms. Officers said commercial businesses are the most frequent false-alarm offenders.

Responding to these calls wastes thousands of dollars and hours of manpower each year. Each moment an officer spends chasing a false alarm is time he or she could be using to respond to a bona fide emergency.

When Police Chief Paul Ayers and Patrol Cmdr. Scott Behrbaum presented the proposal to the Services & Operations Committee in February, members raised valid questions about whether the ordinance would limit officers from responding to legitimate calls.

Ayers replied that although alarms deter criminals, the devices do not necessarily help to catch criminals. Out of the hundreds of burglary alarms the department responded to last year, only a handful resulted in arrests.

In 2006, Kirkland began to require alarm users to pay $20 to register their alarms and $50 fines each time the alarm goes off accidentally. The new law led to a dramatic drop in the number of false alarm calls received by the Kirkland Police Department. The ordinance also helped shift the burden of alarm education and maintenance from law enforcement to the owners of alarms, including private security companies.

As in Kirkland, the Issaquah ordinance would require alarm owners to pay a registration fee. The fees, and fines issued for false alarms, are expected to cover the cost of the management of the ordinance. That’s as it should be. 

We like that the proposed ordinance includes a community education mandate, an audit of the ordinance each year and a 10-minute limit of any siren or alarm that is audible to neighbors. But we are concerned about the gathering of more private information, and that the registration may cause more home and business owners to decide against the installation of an alarm.

To express your own pros and cons, attend the committee meeting at 5 p.m. in the Eagle Room at City Hall, 130 E. Sunset Way.

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2 Responses to “Press Editorial”

  1. Popeye on April 14th, 2009 4:29 pm

    The Seattle model should be considered too. Seattle says the alarm industry should take much of the responsibility, because they cause nearly all of the unnecessary police response. Remember, all of the calls for police help come from the monitoring firms, not the alarm site. Monitoring firms are in business to filter and verify the signals before calling for help, just like the rest of us citizens. They have not modernized the technology and operations, which puts the burden on the local police to do their work for them. Which explains why nearly all are false. When monitoring firms are responsible for the fees, they interact with their customers to make false alarms go down, and the city admin cost is minimized. Fewer invoices go out and collections are nearly full compliance. If they do not pay fees, their business license could be pulled. And alarm users get faster emergency response. So the Seattle model should be considered too.

  2. Zandra Walker on April 18th, 2009 2:14 pm

    I have praise for the marvelous book I read about in the Press in April 2009. It is
    “Twelve Stones: Notes on a Miraculous Journey – A Memoir” by Barbara Carol.

    The memoir drew me in from the first page; took me all over the world, inspired me and transported me to places I’ve been, experiences and situations in which I’ve found myself. It’s fast moving and I’ve not finished it yet but I know I’m sorry I didn’t attend the book signing at Vino Bella on March 3rd. And to think the author lives in the hills around me in Sammamish. I’d love to meet her.

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