Greenville residents and business owners now have added incentive to curb false burglar alarms.
The number of “free” false alarms allowed before fines are assessed dropped from three to two as of Nov. 1, and fines have gone up, as well. In addition, if false-alarm charges are not paid within 30 days, the fee will double.
Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller asked City Council for the changes in an effort to reduce the number of false alarms to which police must respond.
So far this year, 90 percent of the 3,342 burglar alarms that have required a police response were false. Behind collisions, alarm activations are the second-most-common reason for police-service calls. Miller said that reducing false alarms will allow the department to better focus on crime reduction and traffic safety.
The city does not count alarms activated by severe weather as false. It is also not a false alarm if an alarm company calls and cancels the alarm prior to the arrival of officers on the scene. The ordinance requires alarm companies to make two phone calls to alarm users to verify whether an alarm call is valid except in case of a panic or robbery-in-progress alarm or where a crime in progress has been confirmed through video or audio means.
Once a location exceeds the city’s allowance, fines start at $50 and increase intermittently to $500 each after the ninth and subsequent false alarm.
Businesses that fail to pay the false-alarm fines risk having their city business licenses suspended. Residential alarm holders who don’t pay could have their accounts sent to a collection agency, said Donald Porter, the police department’s public affairs manager. Nearly $200,000 in delinquent false-alarm fines, penalties, and interest are currently on the books.
False alarms by the numbers
False alarms allowed before fines are imposed
Percentage of alarm calls that are false
Fine imposed for ninth and subsequent false alarms in a year
Alarm calls in 2017
Burglar alarm calls received since January 2015
Source: Greenville Police Department