Security system false alarms are, from a police perspective, an annoying waste of resources that leave the community less safe.
Rules passed last summer in Redmond that intended to cut down on false alarms appear to be working. Over the past 12 months, there were nearly 200 fewer false alarms from home and business security systems than in the prior year.
Two officers typically respond to alarm calls, which last approximately 20 minutes, according to Redmond Lt. Curtis Chambers.
“We were looking at ways to reduce officer workload and increase the amount of time that officers have to conduct criminal investigations or respond to other calls for service instead of needlessly responding to false alarms,” Chambers said.
Redmond Police get about 23,000 calls for service per year. Of these, about 600 to 700 were related to security alarms and nearly all of them end up being false alarms.
Following the City Council’s rule change in May 2018, Redmond got 507 false alarms over the next 12 months.
The figure was only seven higher than the council’s goal of 500 per year.
In the 12 months after the rule change, the Redmond business or residence with the most false alarms was SELCO Credit Union on SW 17th Street, which had seven. In the 12 months prior to the ordinance taking effect, the greatest offender was Jersey Boy’s Pizzeria on NW Elm Avenue, which had nine false alarm calls.
Redmond’s law is intended to encourage compliance by imposing separate fees for registered and nonregistered alarm users, with unregistered users paying twice as much as registered users.
Redmond Police Department estimates the reduction in false alarms saved the department 92 officer hours.
To enforce the ordinance and ensure compliance, Redmond Police used its volunteers corps.
Since the passage of the ordinance, volunteers have delivered warning notifications to alarm users responsible for false alarms and contacted businesses and homeowners who had alarms that were registered with the city.
This resulted in a “dramatic” increase in alarm registrations, Chambers said. More than 150 permits were issued between May 2018 and May 2019. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, 59 permits were issued, and there were 31 the year before.
“Registering is important because registered owners are more aware of the ordinance and can take steps to prevent repeat false alarms,” Chambers said.
Bend has also seen fewer alarm calls since a rule change in 2012. Its ordinance imposes a $250 fee for a second false alarm and a $500 fee for a third. After a third false alarm, Bend Police Department can stop responding to alarms at the location.
Though the rule was changed in 2012, its real impact wasn’t felt until about 2015, when police started imposing the ordinance’s associated fees.
About 75% of the false alarm calls came from businesses in Bend, and 86% in Redmond.
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