The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has responded to hundreds of false alarms in recent years, with 387 unwarranted alarm calls received in 2017 alone.
While Sheriff Dave Stanko attributed the likely causes of these alarms to defective alarm systems or human error, he noted these false alarms require law enforcement to respond, which takes deputies away from other law enforcement activities.
To reduce the number of false alarms, the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners recently enacted an alarm ordinance, requiring that all automatic and semiautomatic alarm systems be registered with the Sheriff’s Office.
This includes businesses and residences with panic, fire or intruder alarms that call in a request, or would possibly result in someone calling in a request for emergency services to respond.
By contrast, a normal household smoke detector that is not monitored by an alarm company would not, in most cases, require registration.
Stanko defined a false alarm as a signal, transmission or other communication to the sheriff, whether intentional or not, that one could reasonably expect would prompt the sheriff to dispatch emergency services when there is no need for such services.
The Sheriff’s Office began taking registrations in January, with a fee of $20 each and renewals required every two years.
According to Stanko, the goal of registering alarm systems is to ensure responders have up-to-date information about alarm-equipped locations, to assist in tracking false alarms.
Stanko explained that those responsible for such alarm systems would be required to inform the sheriff of the causes of any false alarms, and could also be required to take action to prevent further false alarms, whether by repairing faulty sensors or adjusting those systems to accommodate for pets in the home.
The first false alarm in a six-month period would result in a warning letter, with the potential for fines on a scale for successive false alarms within those six months, with a possible range of $50 to more than $200 for chronic offenders. Nonregistered alarms would also incur fines.
Chief Criminal Deputy Art Frank anticipates the grace period lasting through April 1 for first occurrences of false alarms. However, if there is a second false alarm before April 1, he warned, that second alarm would trigger the violation process if the system owner remains out of compliance.
Stanko reiterated that the goal of this ordinance is to improve services for all people in Jefferson County while reducing the wasted time and other costs of false alarms.
The Sheriff’s Office plans to continue responding to all reports of emergencies made to 911 or reported to its deputies.