False Alarms: A New Law Where the Punishment Doesn't Meet the "Crime"

Feb. 15, 2005
Suffolk County, N.Y.'s proposed addition to its alarm ordinance could mean jail time for your customer's fifth false alarm ... isn't that a bit much?

Suffolk County, N.Y., will be the newest community to enact an alarm ordinance ... and this time it's no slap on the wrist for a nuisance alarm.

After responding to 157,039 false alarms in 2003, which the department translates into 6,870 eight-hour tours or a cost of $2,597,000, the county is, like many in the United States, enacting a false alarm ordinance that will fine alarm owners for false alerts of their alarm system.

The local law is expected to be confirmed in coming days, and thanks to a copy of the country resolution from Jan. 25 sent by New York's MBFAA, SecurityInfoWatch.com is able provide details of this coming law.

The new law, which adjusts Section 213-3 of the Suffolk County Code, sets out a fee structure, like other counties and municipalities. However, in Suffolk County, the ordinance proposes a high increase in fines, much higher than industry norms where fines tend to spread from $50 to $500.

While the first alarm call of a year is not fined, and is only recorded, the second false alarm is subject to a fine of $350. On a third false alarm, the fine more than doubles, to a levy of $750. Fourth and subsequent false alarm responses will require a fine of a staggering $1,000.

Despite the high fines, Suffolk County is proposing even more dire consequences. Besides a $1,000 fine, the proposed law states that "any alarm owner who shall continue to operate an alarm system that has generated four false alarms in a twelve month period and having been fined in accordance with the schedule ... shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both. Each such violation shall be deemed a separate offense.

Suffolk's proposal, which means that an alarm owner on their fifth false alarm could end up in jail for a year and with a $1,000 fine in addition -- if the law is enforced with its most heavily levied punishment -- strikes those of us at SecurityInfoWatch.com as a clear case where the "crime" (if indeed there is one) does not fit the punishment.

The day that the public must choose between securing their homes and businesses or facing possible jail time is a dark day for our industry.

Get Involved: Suffolk County will be holding its committee session at 11 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Feb. 15, and then following that, will hold a public hearing at 2:30 p.m. The law has the possibility of being passed this day, but will likely be voted on at a later date. The law has a provision that the changes would be enacted 120 days after it is approved and filed with the office of the Secretary of State. The Metropolitan Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (MBFAA) is involved with tracking of this legislation.