False alarm calls could be met with fines

July 22, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 4 p.m. July 22, 2009

Issaquah police officers responded to 1,035 burglary, robbery or duress alarms last year, according to police figures. But 99.2 percent of the alerts were false.

Now, city and police officials are cracking down on false alarms, and violators could pay fines for wasting officers’ time. City Council members approved a false alarm ordinance Monday night — setting fees to register alarms and penalties for users whose alarms accidentally alert police.

Alarm users will be required to pay $24 to register their systems. Violators could face fines up to $200, depending on the type of alert and the infraction.

Officials described businesses as the main false-alarm offenders due to employee turnover and a lack of education about alarm systems.

“The police response to these alarms cost our city thousands of dollars each year and, of course, takes time from our officers responding to them that does not allow them to respond to other activities in the city,” Councilwoman Eileen Barber said.

Police Chief Paul Ayers noted how several Washington cities have enacted false alarm ordinances, including Kirkland and Redmond on the Eastside. Ordinances in those cities have led to a dramatic drop in the number of false alarm calls received by police.

Officials will enter a contract with a Colorado Springs, Colo., company, ATB Services, to manage the ordinance. ATB works with alarm providers to include the permit fee in customers’ bills.

“If we could get it down to an alarm a day, we would be very pleased,” Ayers said.

Councilman Fred Butler asked the police chief if the ordinance would raise money for the city amid a budget shortfall.

“I hope to make no money for the city when this is done,” Ayers said. “Our goal with this ordinance is to have a reduction — like our neighboring cities have — a 60 to 70 percent reduction in false alarms.”

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