False Alarm Fees Raised in White Bear Lake, Minn.

Electronic security systems may ward off burglars, but they also keep the police hopping, mainly because they're ripe for false alarms.

In an effort to curb the problem, the White Bear Lake City Council this week voted to impose fees for false alarms.

The city had 856 false alarms last year, said City Manager Mark Sather, a number that's been even higher in the past. False alarms pose an unnecessary risk to the public and to officers, he said, because police rush to the scene of suspected burglaries.

And officers who become inured to repeated false alarms are at greater risk when the real burglar shows up, Sather said.

Three public institutions a community college, the local school district and the city sports center were on the list of those producing the most false alarms.

The fees are aimed at getting people to adjust the sensitivity of their equipment or to better train employees.

Some alarms on overhead garage doors tend to go off more on windy days, he said. In other cases, loose material such as papers or balloons can trip the sensors.

Under the new rules, the first three false alarms in a year are free. The fourth will cost $50. Fees step up another $25 with each successive false alarm. The fifth call, for example, would cost $75 and the sixth $100. People can appeal the charges.

The rules don't apply to fire or ambulance services or to calls that are phoned in.