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An alarming problem with local businesses

Posted: June 23, 2009 2:13 p.m.
Updated: June 23, 2009 2:15 p.m.
Deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station respond to nearly 5,000 false alarms each year. These alarms require deputies to respond quickly, often to learn once they arrive that the alarm was activated in error and there was an apparent malfunction.

While alarm systems can be an effective tool for crime prevention, roughly 99 percent of all alarm activations are false.

Often, there are repeated problems with the same alarm systems. In fact, 80 percent of reported false alarms are caused by fewer than 20 percent of local businesses that have alarm systems.

With a continued increase in alarm systems locally, the Sheriff's Department has become inundated with false alarms. These added alarm calls result in delayed response times to other calls for service as well as depleting valuable patrol resources that work diligently to keep our community safe.

The city's goal is to reduce the number of false alarm calls, thus allowing the Sheriff's Department to focus on other calls.

A False Alarm Ordinance was adopted by the City Council in 1997 to help reduce the number of false alarms received each year. This program affects both residential and business alarm owners. Owners of alarm systems are urged to become familiar with their alarm systems and stay in close contact with their alarm company.

The Sheriff's Business Alliance offers a "False Alarm Prevention" guide which is available online at this link: False Alarm Brochure or at the front counter of the Sheriff's Station. This guide offers several tips. and resources to help both business managers and residents properly manage their alarm systems to avoid false alarms.

Effective July 1, the city of Santa Clarita will adopt a new cost recovery model for false alarm incidents.

The city will continue to subsidize the sheriff's response for business by waiving two false alarm fees each calendar year, per alarm location. The third false burglary alarm incident will be charged at $255, fourth at $400 and fifth and subsequent false alarm incidents will be charged at the full cost recovery amount of $600. The city has also made a distinction in fees for false robbery and panic alarms.

The new robbery alarm fees will be $300 for the third call for service, $600 for the fourth call, and the full cost recovery of $800 for the fifth and subsequent false robbery alarm calls.

The difference in these fee amounts is due to the resources that respond to the very different calls for service. In the response to a robbery alarm call, more deputies respond due to the potential violent act of a person at the location with a weapon, versus a burglary alarm call where it likely is a property related crime.

The fees are higher and increase with frequency of false alarms, in an effort to recoup the actual costs of responding to the alarms, and to provide fairness and equity for businesses that have one or two false alarms versus those businesses that generate dozens of false alarms each year.

A study of the false alarms in Santa Clarita showed that the fines were paid, the behavior causing the false alarms did not significantly change, and the number of false alarm incidents from the previous year fell less than 1 percent.

"This is not an effort to raise money through alarm fees," stated Captain Anthony La Berge of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station. "Simply put, we need to get the attention of alarm owners who mismanage their alarms. The resources of our deputies who are responding to these errant alarms could be better spent protecting our Santa Clarita community and responding to priority calls for service. The number of false alarms responses takes almost four full-time deputies out of the field each day."

The Sheriff's Department would like to remind everyone that "Preventing Crime in the city of Santa Clarita is EVERYONE's Business."



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