Charlotte Considers Fee to Reduce False Alarms

Homes and businesses with alarms wired to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department could be charged a fee if the City Council amends an alarm registration ordinance tonight.

The change would affect a 1996 ordinance that requires businesses and homes with alarms to register with the city. That ordinance, which imposed fines on excessive false alarms, has cut in half the number of alarm calls police get a year.

Some council members think adding the $5 fee would further reduce false alarm calls, which waste police resources.

But one council member says the amendment, which would discontinue police responses to alarms at homes and businesses that don't pay the fee, might deny help to people who need it.

There are about 120,000 businesses, homes and other sites registered for alarms, although that number could shrink once the law goes into effect, said council member Patsy Kinsey, a member of the Community Safety Committee, which endorsed the change 3-1.

"We think there are fewer (than 120,000) because when people move, sometimes they don't report it," she said.

"That's the whole idea of the $5 renewal fee -- just to make sure we keep track of who has an alarm and who doesn't."

Warren Turner, the committee's dissenting vote, said he would like the council to explore alternatives to enacting a fee.

"I'm just not for sure that it's going to benefit us, and how much strain do we put on the pocketbooks of our citizens?" he said.

He said that refusing to respond to an alarm because someone doesn't pay the $5 fee "puts people's lives in jeopardy."

"(It) sends the wrong message. You're going to discourage people to have alarms."

(c) 2005 Associated Press