01/17/08 — County considers fee for false alarms

View Archive

County considers fee for false alarms

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 17, 2008 1:47 PM

With sirens blaring and blue lights flashing, Wayne County Sheriff's Office deputies responded 449 times in the past three months to alarm calls.

The problem was that those 449 trips turned out to be false alarms. The number is of concern to the Sheriff Office's Maj. Ray Smith, who said that there were 820 total burglar alarms in the same time period.

"False alarms have been a major problem," Smith said. "You don't drive a mile, you drive 15-20 miles. You've got 50 miles to one alarm. That's your tax dollars."

To respond, Wayne County commissioners and the Sheriff's Office have been looking into a fee for multiple false alarms.

The city of Goldsboro already uses a similar plan, Goldsboro police operations Maj. Mike Hopper said.

When Goldsboro police determine that an alarm was caused by human error -- not weather or other uncontrollable forces -- Hopper's office sends a letter.

The letter informs citizens that they get three "free" false alarms per year.

For each human-caused false alarm up to six, the department charges a fee of $50 per response.

If an alarm system causes more than seven false alarms per year, the fee is $100 per response, according to details provided by the department.

Hopper said town officials first started the system a few years ago. It hasn't caused any major problems, the major said.

The department rarely had to collect a fee in 2007 -- just 14 times, with three total $100 fines -- which Hopper believes is an indicator of the program's success.

"A lot of times, it's people who don't know the code," Hopper said. "We really haven't had any trouble the last few years since we started this."

When fees are collected, they are deposited back in Goldsboro's general fund, so police have no monetary incentive to enforce the rule other than the cost of their time and gasoline, Hopper said.

Sheriff Carey Winders said Wayne County might not be able to enforce rules Goldsboro can because of the differences between county and city government.

"If somebody ... can't remember the code continuously, they've got to do something," Winders said. "We certainly are looking at" fees for false alarms.

Winders said he might present a plan for such a system to Wayne County commissioners in the next few months.