Greenville looks to strengthen false-alarm ordinance

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The Greenville Police Department responded to nearly 3,400 alarms during the first eight months of 2018, according to department officials.

Because the police department doesn’t know whether an alarm is false or it is an actual attempt to gain unauthorized entry into a business or residence, two officers are typically dispatched for each alarm.

But only 321 of the alarms were legitimate calls.

“It consumes a lot of time,” Police Chief Ken Miller said.

That’s why he is asking the Greenville City Council to consider reducing the number of “free” false-alarm calls a business or residence is allowed before fines are assessed and to double that fine if the alarm user does not pay within 30 days of receiving a bill for a false alarm.

The city last strengthened its alarm ordinance in 2011 when it cut the number of allowed false alarms from two per quarter to three per year. Miller said that’s cut down on the number of false alarms but not by as much as other cities that have taken similar measures. He said the national average is that 99 percent of alarm calls are false. Greenville ranges from in the low 80s to high 90s.

The city does not count alarms that are activated by severe weather as false.

Miller wants the city to cut the number of allowed false alarms from three per year to two. Under his proposal, fines for the third and fourth false alarms would be $50 each. The fine would increase to $100 per alarm for the fifth and sixth, $250 for the seventh and eighth, and $500 for the ninth or more. If an alarm company calls and cancels the alarm prior to the arrival of officers on scene, it is not considered a false alarm, Miller said. The current ordinance requires alarm companies to make two phone calls to alarm users to verify whether an alarm call is valid except in the case of a panic or robbery-in-progress alarm or where a crime in progress has been confirmed through video or audible means.

To encourage alarm owners to pay the fines, Miller recommended that any not paid within 30 days be doubled. The city is owed $199,340 in past-due alarm fines. Multiple notices are sent and the city tries to collect the past-due amounts when a business tries to renew its business license.

False alarms in Greenville

Year                 Alarms Reported   False Alarms   Actual Events Percent False

2018*                          3,399               3,078               321                  91

2017                            5,115               4,514               601                  88

2016                            5,247               4,721               526                  90

2015                            4,888               4,686               202                  96

* As of Aug. 28

(Source: Greenville Police Department)

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