New Burglar Alarm Ordinance Proposed for Lexington County, S.C.

Accidentally setting off a burglar alarm in Lexington County could earn a fine if the county approves a new ordinance.

The county is considering penalties for repeat false alarms on home and business burglar alarms. According to the Sheriff’s Department, the county received more than 7,000 false alarms last year, and the problem is growing.

Those alarms cost the county more than 2,700 hours of manpower and $68,000. Less than 1 percent of all burglar alarm calls were the result of criminal activity.

“When we send an officer,” Maj. John Tate told County Council, “let’s do it for real alarms and real crimes.”

The proposed ordinance, similar to those in Richland County and elsewhere around the country, would allow owners three false alarms before being fined. If an alarm owner can prove he or she had the problem fixed, the fines would be reduced.

The first fine would be $100. Fines would increase with each violation.

Council has considered an ordinance before, but a number of members now seem ready to approve the measure. Council members could vote on it later this year.

“We’ve had a 15-year grace period,” Councilman Billy Derrick said.

A second requirement is that alarm companies register each alarm with the county. Repeat offenders could be placed on a “do not respond” list.

“I’m certainly behind trying to cut down on false alarms,” said Chuck Rich, owner of Irmo-based Rich Security. “Sometimes the only way to deal with it is to hold the company responsible.”

But, Rich said, an ordinance can cause owners and companies problems.

Smaller companies like his, he said, can get bogged down with the required paperwork. A larger company, he said, might not be able to quickly fix faulty systems before another false alarm.

Sheriff’s officials said many of the problems come from county school systems, citing a Lexington-Richland District 5 school where the alarm can ring three or four times a night.

District spokesman Buddy Price said the school’s facilities and security staff are working to fix the problems.

At one school, he said, there clearly is a faulty system. At others, he said, bumps and jostles might have triggered sensitive equipment.

Price said the school system also will talk to staff about being careful not to set off the alarm when entering the school on weekends.

“I feel sure,” Price said, “that by working with our schools and by working with the sheriff, we’ll be able to reconcile it.”

(c) 2005 Associated Press