Jacksonville, FL (December 18, 2016) False alarms are costly in Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) time and manpower. In 2015, approximately 98 percent of alarm responses in Jacksonville were false calls. Checking an errant alarm takes police away from real crime.
In the past, an, alarm owner could have six false alarms before a fine of $25 was charged for each subsequent false alarm up to 12 within the same calendar year. Any more than that and the revocation of alarm service by JSO could take place. The fines if assessed, didn’t adequately relate to the time and cost of false alarms plus inadequate information on alarm owners added to the problem.
Ordinance 2016-562, introduced by Council Member Tommy Hazouri was enacted on October 11, 2016 to address this problem. Through much debate in committees, District 11 Council Member Danny Becton fought for reasonable legislation that addresses the need to reduce false alarms while at the same time not burdening small businesses and home owners with excessive fines and registration fees. The ordinance calls for registering all businesses and home owners that have alarms with JSO to provide much needed contact information and to track more accurately the frequency of alarm incidences.
Currently, JSO is taking bids to hire a third-party service provider to monitor the alarm information for the city. Once registered, the alarm will be given an Alarm Permit Number which will be required to be renewed annually. Renewals will have no fee if done within 30 days prior and up to 30 days after the Alarm Permit Number has expired. Those failing to re-register during this grace period will be required to pay a reinstatement fee that will be set by the JSO once a vendor is in place and a start date for the alarm registration program has been established.
The fine schedule as passed in the ordinance calls for no charge for the first two false alarms in any one calendar year until those false alarms are deemed excessive. A third false alarm in that same calendar year would classify it as a Class D offense bring a $50 fine, a fourth a fine of $100, a fifth a fine of $150 and each subsequence offence of six or more in the same calendar year would bring a $250 fine per occurrence. Upon the seventh false alarm JSO would only respond in the event of a panic or robbery-in-progress.
As first drafted, five or more offenses would have incurred a $500 fine but being concerned that small business owners might have to choose between paying these high fines or perhaps turning off their alarms all together, CM Becton introduced a floor amendment that reduced those fines to the amounts in the new ordinance maxing out at $250.
For more than 25 years, CM Becton has been a small business owner and understands the issues of false alarms and their circumstances. In committee, he argued that false alarms are not solely caused by faulty equipment but most often by careless employees, cleaning services or any number of reasons outside of the owner’s control. In considering more devious reasons, a disgruntled employee knowing fines are costly, may contribute to frequent false alarms leading to increase costs to their company.
Through debate and compromise, CM Becton helped craft a more sensitive bill to these issues and as a result supported this legislation saying “it resolves a problem without being an excessive financial penalty on all alarm owners”.