Annapolis weighs fines for false alarm calls

The Baltimore Sun

A faulty security alarm system may cost Annapolitans, if proposed legislation that would impose fines on businesses and homes with too many false alarms passes in the City Council.

It's a move that supporters say would save emergency resources wasted in responding to unwarranted alarm calls. The legislation, introduced by Ward 7 Alderman Sam Shropshire and co-sponsored by Ward 5 Alderman David Cordle at Monday's City Council meeting, would limit to two the number of false alarms permitted in a year before the owner or lessee is fined.

Other jurisdictions in the area, such as Howard County, already impose fines for false alarms. Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop said he supports the bill.

"I think it's sensible legislation for a number of reasons," Pristoop said. "So many alarm calls are false and, in many cases, could be prevented."

From January to November last year, the Police Department responded to 3,566 alarm calls, but only 16 of those generated a founded complaint, Pristoop said.

"Way more than 99 percent of them were not legitimate in terms of alarming us to a matter," he said.

During the same period, 390 man-hours were used to respond to false alarm calls, and 331 addresses accounted for more than 2,300 of the calls, Pristoop said.

"The way I look at it is, if we don't respond to as many false alarms, we have more discretionary time to provide services for the community in a proactive way," he said. "If we can use the officers' time better, we provide better upfront services for people. Everybody wins."

The proposed bill would also allow those fined to appeal to a board established by the Fire/EMS and Police Departments. If the board determines the alarm went off "beyond the control of the user or other extenuating circumstances," it could grant the appeal.

"This is a cost-effective way to cut costs and provide more security for our constituents, and they are our first responsibility," Shropshire said in a statement.

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