On the Books: Alarm Ordinances That Can Affect You

SIW editorial staff poured over local news in an attempt to find alerts of recent alarm ordinances that will affect you and your customers. For more information, stay in touch with groups like the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) and your state alarm associations. Here are some of the latest ordinances that have been passed or are likely to make their way into law:

Hillsborough County, Fla.
According to the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners, the new ordinance that took effect on Oct. 1 creates a fine schedule to which owners of security systems will be charged for false alarms, with repetitive occurrences grouped on a yearly basis. The following fine schedule was published by the county:

  • 1st and 2nd occurrence - warning notice
  • 3rd occurrence - $75 fine
  • 4th occurrence - $100 fine
  • 5th occurrence - $150 fine
  • 6th occurrence - $300 fine
  • 7th occurrence and above - $500 fine per incident

In addition to these penalties, the ordinance calls for:

  • A $100 fine charged to an alarm business that fails to provide required information to law enforcement dispatch at the time of a request for law enforcement response to an alarm signal.
  • A $100 fine charged to an alarm business or an alarm user who fails to maintain or provide any of the required information specified in the ordinance to any law enforcement officer conducting a related alarm investigation.
  • A $100 fine shall be charged to each alarm business that requests law enforcement response to a false alarm that is the result of installation, system repairs, or system service by the business or an agent of the alarm business.

Milwaukee, Wis.
Milwaukee went to a verified alarm ordinance on Sept. 19 which requires that alarms be verified by monitoring companies before police, fire or emergency responders are dispatched. The law faced several challenges, including a last-minute effort by a local alderman to change the ordinance to have the local sheriff's office perform the verification. The alderman's attempt at the change has failed.

Los Angeles, Calif.
On Sept. 28, Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn signed a new alarm ordinance which had been passed 13-0 by the L.A. city council a week earlier. The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2005. It set the following, according to Jerry Lenander of the California Alarm Association:

  • No citizen shall make a call for service if the alarmed property has two invalid alarms in a 365 day period, and if the citizen makes the call for service, they are subject to a misdemeanor.
  • The ordinance sets a fine of $115 for each invalid alarm at a permitted property (there is a $30 annual cost for a permit), and the fee escalates by $50 for each subsequent invalid alarm.
  • For non-permitted alarmed properties, the ordinance sets the first fine for invalid alarm at $215 and escalating at $100 additional for each subsequent invalid alarm.

This follows a dispatch policy implemented by the LAPD on Jan. 1, 2004, that said that if the user has two invalid alarms within a 365-day period, and the alarm signal is not verified by a person or by video, then this call will follow the "broadcast and file" policy, which means that the call is available for an officer to respond at their discretion -- but not required. That policy had previously left the fine system set up with no fee for the first two invalid alarms, and then a $95 charge for subsequent responses to false alarms.

Loudon County, Va.
Leesburg, Va., is on the bandwagon with a new fee-based alarm ordinance that has been proposed. The ordinance, which is scheduled to be voted upon soon, charges fees for false alarms, with two false alarms costing $50 per year, and owners of systems with more than 12 calls per year being billed up to $4,000. All owners of home alarms with will be required to register their alarms at a cost of $30, and a $45 registration fee has been proposed for commercial alarm users according to the Leesburg (Va.) Today newspaper. If passed, the ordinance would begin being enforced in July 2005.

North Naples, Fla.
False alarms in the North Naples Fire District will cost users up to $500 per instance following the passing of a new law in September, according to The (Fla.) News-Press. First offenses get off with a written warning. A second offense within a six-month period will earn a $100 fine. Third offenses will cost $250, and the fourth and latter offenses will be billed $500. The ordinance works on a six-month period, so after six months, the fee schedule resets itself back to the lower cost levels.

Plantation, Fla.
The city of Plantation, Fla., has passed a new alarm ordinance that requires alarm owners to have permits for their alarms at an initial cost of $25, with a $10 per year renewal fee which can be waived it the user had no false alarm in the previous year. Fees spelled out in the ordinance are implemented after the third false alarm, with the fourth false alarm response costing $150, with fifth costing $250, sixth costing $400 and each subsequent call costing $500. The ordinance also involves the licensing of alarm installation contractors.

Princeton Borough, N.J.
The Borough Council was set to decide upon an alarm ordinance at deadline for this article. This proposed ordinance is a little different than most in that it rolls the false alarm charges into the alarm registration cost. If the ordinance passes, it would charge $125 per year to register an alarm or $300 per year for systems that generated more than four false alarm calls in the previous year. For owners who were charged $300, the fee would drop back to $150 the next year if they had less than four calls in the year that they were permitted at the $300 rate. According to The Princeton (N.J.) Packet, the ordinance would raise $26,000 per year in revenue.

Springfield, Mass.
The city is considering an alarm ordinance that would charge fees for false alarms, with a schedule between $50 and $200 depending on number of offenses.

Tuscon, Ariz.
The Tuscon Police Department enacted legislation approximately one year ago and now sends out citations for false alarms. The schedule begins with a citation, and if decided by a court system, a fee of $265. The charge for the second false-alarm incident is $565, and according to local TV news station, KVOA-4, additional responses may cost over $1,000.