03/20/08 — Fremont to charge for excessive 911 calls

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Fremont to charge for excessive 911 calls

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on March 20, 2008 1:46 PM

FREMONT -- Fremont town aldermen decided Tuesday night to charge for excessive false alarm calls to law enforcement, following Goldsboro's lead.

An ordinance adopted unanimously says Fremont fire and police departments "receive an abundance of false fire and security alarm calls which inhibit their ability to serve the public."

The new fines apply to burglary, robbery, fire or "other" alarms, the new ordinance text shows.

The terms of the new fines are as follows:

*Two false alarms in a 30-day period mean the code enforcement officer or a designee will notify the property owner by certified mail. Getting that letter means a citizen is placed on a 90-day probationary period.

*In the 90-day probation period, every additional false alarm will cost $100.

*The probationary period is extended until an owner's alarm system does not cause a false alarm during a full 90-day period, the resolution text states.

*False alarm call bills must be paid within 45 days of getting the bill, or the amount is collected as a civil penalty. Civil penalties are non-criminal fines collected by the state for wrongdoing by an individual against the state.

One question officials had was who would administer the program and who would decide whether calls were truly "false alarms."

"It says code enforcement officer. Technically, that would be me. I think," Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said. Town officials said the town's fire and police chiefs also should play an evaluative role.

The ordinance allows the code enforcement officer to give alarm owners the opportunity to prove the alarm was not false. That requires the owner to "demonstrate to the satisfaction of the code enforcement officer or (a) designee that the alarm was a legitimate activation of the system's equipment," according to the ordinance.

The approved ordinance also creates three new misdemeanors:

*It's a misdemeanor to purposefully make false alarms.

* It's also a misdemeanor to "use ... similar type emergency equipment used by the police or fire department without express written permission from the fire chief or police chief." Officials did not discuss in open session why this clause was included in the resolution text.

*Finally, it's now a misdemeanor in Fremont to report a false alarm "to any city official or department," according to the ordinance text.

The town board's move follows the city of Goldsboro's existing fee structure.

Goldsboro residents get three "free" false alarms, then are charged $50 for each alarm between three and six, and $100 for seven or more.

Goldsboro police reported in January that the city has seen a marked decrease in the number of false calls since instiuting the fines.

Fremont Alderman W.T. Smith said Fremont has received as many as three false alarm calls from the same location in one day.

"They're going to call somebody really quick if we start charging them," Smith said.