Olive Branch, MS Heads off False Alarms

Olive Branch police hope a new information campaign will reduce the number of false burglary alarms and free officers to respond to real emergencies.

The department is having 2,000 door hangers printed for distribution at places officers hurry to, only to discover an alarm was false.

The information will provide alarm customers advice on how to prevent false alarms. Officers will begin distributing the information in a few weeks.

False alarms are a common problem for police nationwide. Some cities have even created ordinances to fine people and businesses with repeated false alarms, but Olive Branch doesn't have such a plan on the table.

About 99.5 percent of the 3,500 alarm calls Olive Branch police received last year were false alarms, said Art Heun, the city's police chief. On average, each calls takes 20 minutes of an officer's time.

Some alarm customers are repeat offenders. Two unidentified Olive Branch businesses, for example, each had 16 false alarms after employees hit the wrong button.

"That gets our stress level up," Heun said. "We're expecting a robbery - and it's nothing. What ends up happening eventually is the cry-wolf syndrome."

Most often, the alarm is triggered because of human error - a door or window isn't properly closed or an employee unfamiliar with the system hits the wrong key.

The alarm company for repeat offenders wasn't identified, but a spokesman for Brink's Home Security, with 292 customers in Olive Branch, said an alarm company should consult with a business or resident when repeat false alarms are recorded.

"The alarm company should be getting with that business and troubleshooting ... finding out exactly why the alarms have occurred," said the spokesman, Dave Simon. "It's not good for the police department, it's not good for the business (to have multiple false alarms)."

Simon said the problem needs to be addressed and fixed "way before it gets into double digits."