Union County Council unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance establishing a schedule of fines for repeated false alarms. The ordinance was requested by Sheriff David Taylor who said that since Jan. 1, his office has responded to 327 alarms, all but one of which proved false. He said the fines are needed to convince homeowners and business owners to make sure their alarm systems are properly functioning to prevent false alarms.
“We’re not doing this to make money, we’re doing this to make people be accountable for their alarm systems,” he said. “We’re limited on manpower and we’re running unnecessary calls when almost none of the alarms were caused by break-ins.”
Under the ordinance, residences and businesses will not be fined for the first two false alarms that occur during the calendar year. The following fines will be imposed for subsequent false alarms:
• $50 for the third, fourth and fifth
• $75 for the sixth and seventh
• $100 for the eighth and ninth
•$150 for the 10th and subsequent instances
If an alarm is caused by a storm, Taylor said it would not be counted against the homeowner or business owner.
Council must hold two more readings of the ordinance and a public hearing before it becomes law. Taylor said that his office will not begin enforcing it until Jan. 1 to give the public a “grace period” to make sure their alarm systems are in proper working order.
A similar ordinance has been in place in the City of Union since 2007. There is no fine for the first two false alarms and a $50 fine for the third, fourth and fifth. The fine for the sixth and seventh ones is $100 and $200 for the eight and ninth. The fine for 10th and subsequent false alarms in a calendar year is $500.
Public Safety Director Sam White said that since Union City Council passed the ordinance and his department began enforcing it, the number of false alarms in the city has dropped off significantly.
“We used to have people who just constantly had false alarms,” he said. “When we let them know about the fines, they began taking better care of their equipment. When they’d have a false alarm they’d get the technicians in there to see what was wrong and fix it. It’s really cut back on them. We still have them, mainly when there’s a storm, but we don’t count that against them. We don’t count it toward a possible penalty.”