In an effort to save millions of dollars worth of police manpower now wasted on false-alarm responses, the county legislature is looking at allowing Nassau police to ignore burglar alarms that are not registered with the county.
The same proposal would sharply increase false-alarm fines for homes and businesses that are registered.
One goal, said Det. Lt. Thomas Krumptner, in the office of Police Commissioner James Lawrence, is to "try to get people to take care of their alarm systems so police officers can do what they're supposed to be doing: fighting crime." Another aim, he said, is to prepare for a new automated system of police response for the electronic alarms.
Proponents of the changes said Nassau had 115,000 alarm responses last year, of which 99.4 percent - or more than 114,300 - were false, costing about $4.5 million in police salaries.
Under the amended law, a three-year burglar alarm permit will remain $75 for a home and $100 for a business. But if there is no permit, there will be no police response.
Once the permit is obtained, it is the purchaser's responsibility to give the permit number to the central station monitoring the alarm.
When the alarm goes off, the monitoring station notifies the police with the permit number, which goes into the computer and notifies a responder - or not.
According to a staff summary accompanying the bill, the new law would eliminate the current $25 penalty for reporting an alarm without a permit - since police won't be responding anyway. Nor will police respond to alarms with revoked permit numbers, Krumptner said.
"I don't like the idea of not responding. It could be a matter of life or death," said Central Westbury Civic Association president Manny Sweat. "There's no problem with the fees or fines, but you've got to respond. Some people don't know you need a permit. I had that problem myself, though I have the permit now."
Nassau Legislature Presiding Officer Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) also expressed reservations. "While I see the need to reduce false alarms, I'm concerned about police not responding. It could be an emergency. There could be children at home."
A hearing on the bill is expected Monday.
Jacobs said legislators want to determine who would be responsible for obtaining permits and giving their numbers to monitoring stations - the homes or businesses themselves, or the alarm companies.
"I'm not sure all alarm businesses tell their customers they need a permit," she said.
Brent Mele, owner of All Action Alarm in Huntington Station, said: "I assume once they put this into effect more people will buy permits.
"The vast majority of my customers get permits anyway," he said, "so it won't impact my company much one way or the other." He's concerned, though, about the prospect of police ignoring what might prove to be a "real emergency."
Legis. Lisanne Altmann (D-Great Neck) said she favors the proposal but thinks "there should be a grace period of, say, six months to give people time to get registered."
Under Nassau law since 1991, a home or business owner could have four false alarms within three months without a penalty, but faces permit revocation if there is a fifth one in that period. That was the standard set in a bill that was proposed for Suffolk that foundered last spring.
The proposed Nassau law would revoke a permit after 10 false alarms within a year. But there would be a graduated penalty schedule - from $25 for the fifth false alarm to $250 for the 10th.
Failure to pay any penalty within 10 days of notification could result in revocation, as would failure to provide proof of inspection and proper maintenance after the 10th false alarm.
The fine jumps from $25 to $100 for anyone with an unregistered alarm system that generates a false alarm and then fails to get a permit within 30 days. The same penalty would apply to anyone who operates an alarm with a revoked permit.