Durham, N.C., City Council Considers Raising False Alarm Fees

City's current fee structure is not recouping enough of the costs of police or fire department response


Durham, N.C., thinks that its false alarm fee system may not be charging your customers enough. According to reports from two of Durham's leading television news programs, the city has proposed an update to the city's alarm ordinance that would increase the fees so that the fines actually have a sting.

Durham currently allows up to 12 false alarms per year (at one a month), and charges alarm owners fines if they have more than one false alarm per month. False alarms that require the police are billed $48, and false fire alarms are billed $100.

The problem with the current structure, say city officials, is that Durham's false alarms are costing the city over $2 million per year, but the existing fee structure is only billing out roughly $268,000.

In order to recoup more money and discourage false alarms, the new fine system would start by allowing one "free" false alarm per year, then billing alarm owners $150 for the second, with incremental increases there after. The ordinance update is in front of the City Council, and if approved the fine structure would be implemented in 2006.

The fine system's current concept is as follows:

  • False alarm #1: Free
  • False alarms #2 and #3: $150 each
  • False alarms #4 & #5: $200 each
  • False alarms #6 & #7: $250 each
  • False alarms #8 & #9: $300 each
  • False alarms #10 or greater: $350 each

On Thursday, May 12, the Durham City Council will be considering the revised fine system as part of a weekly work session. The proposal does not include any type of non-response or verified-response clause.