Richard Lucero, city alarms administrator, discusses the proprosed changes to the city’s alarm ordinance. The police committee approved forwarding the revised ordinance on to the councilors for discussion at Thursday’s city council meeting. (Randal Seyler Photo)
About 98 percent of all burglary alarm calls are false alarms, and the City Council will consider a revision to the city’s alarm ordinance at the council meeting on Thursday.
City Alarms Administrator Richard Lucero was on hand Monday when the Police Committee voted unanimously to forward his revised ordinance to the city council for consideration.
“You hear people say, ‘where are the police when you need them?’ Well, a lot of time they are responding to false alarms,” said Lucero. As the alarm administrator, Lucero’s job is to maintain a permit data base, track alarm dispatches, issue permits, send false alarm notifications and collect the service fees.
Lucero also manages the appeals process and helps alarm holders in solving their false alarm problems.
The new ordinance will have to go through publication and readings by the council before it will be adopted, but the committee’s approval begins the process, said Police Committee Chairman Savino Sanchez.
“The current ordinance dates back to 2002, and there have been a lot of changes in alarm ordinances around the country since then,” Lucero said.
False alarms can have a variety of causes, from wind to bats (flying, not wooden), said Lucero, a Roswell native and a former Roswell Police Department commander who retired from the force in 2001 after a career which spanned 22 years.
An alarm set off by a pellet gun shot to a window or someone shaking a door are not false alarms because there could be a criminal element to those events, Lucero said.
A false alarm is defined as when a police officer responds to an alarm but finds no evidence of a criminal offense.
False alarms may be caused by a number of factors, including user carelessness, untrained employees, unrestricted pets or even a faulty alarm system, Lucero said. However, Roswell Police have to respond once the call goes out from dispatch.
Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, Roswell Police responded to 2,583 dispatch requests, and of those, 1,860 were false alarms, Lucero said. There were 653 cancelled dispatches prior to arrival, leaving 70 calls to be valid alarms where crimes actually occurred.
The revised ordinance will require two phone calls by the alarm company to the business or home where the alarm is sounding before public safety officers are dispatched, as well as adjust the fine for a ninth false alarm to $500.
The new ordinance will also add a $250 fine to alarm monitoring companies if a dispatch occurs to an address that has been declared a restricted response site — which is a site where false alarms are common.
A site may be considered a restricted response site if the alarm user has had eight or more false alarms during a 12-month period.
Most people also do not know that they are required to get a permit from the city for their alarm, Lucero said. The $25 permit currently requires a $10 annual renewal fee, but the new ordinance will waive that $10 fee if there are no alarms in the permit’s previous 12-month history.
Finally, the new ordinance will simplify the appeals procedure to more directly involve the alarm administrator.
Police are not required to check alarm calls, so the enhanced call verification can help weed out false alarms, Lucero said. “Police are not sent to alarms in Las Vegas, Nev., Salt Lake City, Aurora, Colo., Yakima, Wash., and dozens of other cities,” he said.
Los Angeles charges alarm holders $31 for their alarm permit and $30 annually for permit renewals, and then fines an individual or business $149 for the very first false alarm, Lucero said. The fines then increase in $50 for subsequent alarms.
Nearer to home, Albuquerque allows three free false alarms before the offender is fined $150 for the fourth and subsequent false alarms. After 10 false alarms, the fine increases to $500 per false alarm response.
In Roswell, fines begin at the third false alarm with a $50 fine, which increases to $100 for false alarms four through eight. At eight, the site is suspended, and if a ninth false alarm response occurs, the fine goes up to $500.
“Fifty cities do not send officers to alarms, but in Roswell we do send out our officers. The bottom line is the safety of our citizens,” Lucero said.