<i> Compiled by researcher Cecilia Rasmussen</i>

Six years after Los Angeles started fining property owners whose false burglar alarms wasted millions of dollars in police time, city officials report mixed success in curbing the electronic equivalent of crying “Wolf!”

The ratio of false to genuine alarms, including those caused by storms and other acts of nature, continues at the same 33-to-1 (97%) pace that existed in pre-ordinance days. But the number of inadvertent rings has dropped by tens of thousands.

Owners of alarms that ring falsely more than four times in a year now face penalties, and police have stopped responding to burglar alarms that lack a city permit.

The average cost of each response has jumped from $42.50 in 1982 to $65, but now some of the cost is recovered. City officials estimate that the fines will raise about $1.7 million this year, roughly 20% of the $8 million-plus cost of responding to false alarms.


Fines are not assessed when false alarms are caused by natural occurrences such as high winds or earthquakes. Proposed fines also are fought for less natural reasons. The heavy construction vibration coming from the Metro Rail project, for instance, has been blamed for a rash of alarms at buildings along the subway route.

ALARMS WITH TOTAL NUMBER VALID FALSE PERMITS POLICE CALLS ALARMS ALARMS 1981* n/a 209,000 5,852 203,148 1982* 25,865 180,182 4,982 175,200 1983* 53,034 158,164 4,349 153,815 1984* 56,397 154,321 4,931 149,390 1985 60,985 146,000 3,650 142,350 1986 66,125 138,541 4,112 134,429 1987 73,805 134,527 3,888 130,639 1988 78,729 130,828 3,630 127,198

* Estimated figures

Source: Los Angeles Police Department