False alarms keep Idaho cops from 'real work'


By Nick Draper
The Idaho Falls Post Register

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — As more people invest in home alarm systems, the chance for false alarms grows.

That's bad news for law enforcement agencies.

Officers respond to all calls as if they're actual emergencies, so real police work suffers when officers race to bogus alarms, Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde said.

They also can be dangerous, too, Wilde said, because people will likely have a lackadaisical attitude when a real problem arises if their alarm system goes off all the time.

In some places in eastern Idaho, officers can take heed that homeowners face significant penalties for numerous false alarms.

In others, there aren't any repercussions for having a faulty system.

Here's a look at how some municipalities deal with false burglar alarms:

City of Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls charges an $8 fee to operate an alarm system. Most alarm systems, business or residential, that have four or more false alarms in a year are subject to a permit revocation.

At the fourth false alarm, the user receives a letter from Idaho Falls Police Chief Steve Roos requesting a response that details what the user plans to do to eliminate the false alarms.

If the police chief doesn't receive a letter back or if he determines the user's actions won't prevent false alarms in the future, the alarm permit will be revoked and the user will have to pay the following fees to get it back:

First time a user's permit is revoked in a year: $40

Second time a user's permit is revoked in a year: $100

Third and each additional time a user's permit is revoked in a year: $180

Bonneville County

Bonneville County charges an $8 fee to operate an alarm system. Bonneville County's ordinance regarding false burglar alarms, which was passed in 1980, is the same as the one in Idaho Falls.

Upon a fourth false alarm in a year, the user gets a letter requesting a response that outlines what the user will do to curb the false alarms.

If the user is unwilling to work with the Bonneville County sheriff's office, the alarm permit is revoked and the user must pay the following fees for a new one.

First time a user's permit is revoked in a year: $40

Second time a user's permit is revoked in a year: $100

Third and each additional time a user's permit is revoked in a year: $180

City of Ammon

Ammon passed an ordinance in 2004 because some residents' alarm systems were going off eight to 10 times a week, City Clerk Leslie Folsom said. Since the ordinance has been on the books, false alarms have dropped significantly, she said.

Fourth false alarm in a 12-month period: a fine of up to $100

Fifth and each additional false alarm in a 12-month period: a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $300 fine

Folsom noted that the city will work with homeowners who are willing to get their alarm systems fixed.

Madison County and city of Rexburg

These municipalities try to get homeowners to repair faulty alarm systems but don't have any ordinances that impose penalties for numerous false alarms.

Copyright 2008 The Idaho Falls Post Register

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