Increased fines for false alarms planned in Ga. city
Rising volumes of false fire, medical and burglary alarms have prompted Columbus fire and police administrators to propose stiffer penalties for repeat offenses
COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus police and fire administrators hope new rules and larger fines could help curb an increasingly large number of false burglary, fire and medical alarms that first responders are called to investigate.
The Columbus Police Department reports they had 22,239 false alarm calls in 2018, while the Columbus Fire Department reports they have had around 2,500 false fire alarm calls each year for the past three years.
Assistant Police Chief Gil Slouchik told Columbus Council on Tuesday that 96% of the alarms the police department responds to are false alarms, which results in countless hours of manpower lost when officers are needlessly dispatched to homes and businesses.
“The only time we count an alarm as false is if we have a police officer dispatched...if the officers arrive at the scene, check the business or the home and there’s no burglary, that counts as a false alarm,” he said.
If a citizen calls off the police response before they get there, it doesn’t count as a false alarm, Slouchik said.
CPD and the fire department proposed amendments to the city code that would increase fines for repeat false alarms.
Slouchik said the City of Atlanta was able to reduce their burglar alarms and police alarms calls by almost 50% by implementing similar changes.
“The goal is to keep police cars and fire trucks and ambulances available for real emergencies,” Slouchik said Thursday. “When you’ve got over 60 false alarm calls a day, that’s a lot.”
Under current city code, after a fourth response to a false alarm at the same home or business within a calendar year, each additional false alarm response within that year will result in a $150 fine for fire false alarms, a $100 fine for emergency medical false alarms and a $25 fine for burglar and other types of false alarms.
Under the proposed changes, the first false alarm would have no charge, and the second false would result in a fine of $50, which could be waived by attending an Alarm Awareness Class.
Additional false alarms would be fined as follows:
Third false alarm…$100
Fourth false alarm…$100
Fifth false alarm…$125
Sixth false alarm…$150
Seventh false alarm…$200
Eighth false alarm…$250
Ninth false alarm…$300
Tenth and subsequent false alarms…$400
If approved, the following changes would also be made to the city code:
Registration of new alarms would be required from an outside vendor for a one-time fee of $35; currently there is no fee to register and registration is done in the city finance department.
The fine for failing to register an alarm system would jump from $30 to $100.
The city finance department would no longer be in charge of issuing permits or fines and instead would be the responsibility of a third party vendor. That third party has not been determined yet.
Alarm permits will still need to be renewed annually, and there will continue to be no charge for renewal. “Its important for us to know who to call when the alarm goes off,” Slouchik said.
If approved by council at next week’s meeting at 9 a.m. November 12, the changes would go into effect January 1, 2020. Starting on that day, users must register a new alarm system within seven days of installation with the CPD.
Alarms installed prior to January 1 would receive a new permit and registration at no cost, provided the user registers the alarm within 90 days of the effective date of the ordinance.
©2019 the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus, Ga.)
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