Do Ordinances Really Decrease False Alarms? One Community Says 'Yes'

In the Ontario town of Sudbury, police were facing the same kind of problem that has beleaguered departments across the country and in the U.S. as well. A proliferation of home security systems also led to a proliferation of false alarms, as cats triggered motion sensors, equipment aged and failed and human operators continually mis-programmed their systems.

In fact, according to a report by the (Sudbury, Ont.) Northern Life newspaper, just three years before, 12 percent of calls that police had to respond to in this Canadian town were alarm calls, with almost all of those being false.

Like many communities, they instituted a false alarm ordinance that put in place a permitting system for alarms, and fines for repeat false alarm offenders. Alarm owners were charged $30 to register their systems ($50 for commercial systems), and then charged $60 per false alarm.

But did it work?

According to a news report in the Northern Life, the program, which started in 2002, worked like a charm. The police department is noting that false alarms dropped by about 60 percent and that revenues from fines and permits have increased to cover the costs of an officer's response. In fact, the police department is calling the program a "huge success" for allowing police officers to focus their efforts on public safety concerns other than false alarms.