No more free pass for false alarms in Chicago

Jan. 8, 2009
City to fine businesses $100 for each false alarm; alarm permit program scrapped

Chicago businesses won't get any mercy for false burglar alarms under a new revenue gathering policy quietly approved by the city.

In the past, businesses could have up to three false alarms before fines kicked in. Now, the fine is $100 per violation right off the bat.

"We just felt that business owners need a deterrent to make sure their burglar alarm systems are operating properly," said Ed Walsh of the city's Revenue Department.

A mass mailing alerted businesses to the abrupt change in policy, Walsh said. An act of nature such as wind or lightning is a defense for a false alarm, as well as having the alarm checked annually by a licensed contractor, he said.

Walsh also said a $34-a-year permit fee was scrapped under the new policy.

Mayor Daley's 2009 budget is precariously balanced with 635 layoffs and $52.5 million in taxes, fines and fees -- including the end to false-alarm freebies. Residential burglar alarms are not affected by the change.

Police said they have already begun ticketing businesses under the no-mercy system.

In the past, businesses had to pay $100 for their fourth through sixth ticket per year and violations jumped to $200 per false alarm after that.