The Minneapolis City Council hasn't yet approved a policy that would charge alarm system owners an annual permit fee, and already one city councilmember is gunning for a way to take that money and use it elsewhere.
According to a news report from Minneapolis' Downtown Journal, the fees would be used to recoup some $800,000 that the police department has in costs for responding to burglar alarm calls. Most alarm calls, according to the city, are false alarms. The fees for registration (tentatively proposed at $15 for residential systems, and $40 for commercial systems) would raise approximately $370,000 per year. The city is also considering adopting an enhanced call verification (ECV) protocol for alarm response.
However, City Councilmember Paul Estrow is already proposing ways to use that money for things other than burglar alarm response costs. Estrow, according to the Downtown Journal, has written into the proposed budget that $137,000 of those fees would be used to fund the costs of two inspectors for the city's liquor license program.
And that move -- to spend the money collected for a public safety issue on the costs of managing whether businesses are paying before they can serve a drink -- leaves me wondering what kind of equity in government that alarm system owners have?
As our industry knows well, the costs of an alarm system and the monthly monitoring is oftentimes a significant expenditure for homeowners and business owners. They've made that decision to invest in security because they want to reduce crime and maybe, just maybe, have a chance at catching the criminals. Most city residents would probably OK the cost of a permit, and many in our business of installing security equipment, would OK the cost of a permit as well, if the costs were to go back to police dispatch and response expenses. Similarly, nightclub and restaurant owners would similarly expect that an increase in their liquor license fees would fund liquor license inspectors.
But a proposal to collect an alarm response permit fee and then to dump that money into the coffers of a liquor license program, is simply baffling -- it's the kind of politics that requires a stiff drink to stomach, to borrow an analogy from the liquor license inspectors budget.