Likening the program to traffic school for errant drivers, the Los Angeles Police Department is offering a class for people who have been billed for a third officer response to a false alarm in a year.
At one such class recently, about 30 people heard advice from police officials and alarm company representatives on the fine art of using their systems.
“Primarily it’s mis-keying a code or forgetting to shut off the alarm when they run in and right back out,” said Lawrence C. Williams of the LAPD alarms unit. “If you forget about it, it might go off while you’re down the street.”
An estimated one of six calls is a false alarm, costing the department the equivalent of 110 officers per year to respond to bogus emergencies, Williams said. The two-hour classes are held twice a month in different sections of the city, and attendance will eliminate one $80 fine per year.
Williams said the main culprits are commercial customers who, unlike most residents, have many more people with access to the building who may not know how to use the alarm.
Last year the city reduced from four to two the number of false alarms an owner is allowed annually before being billed.
The classes began last month as an option to those for whom the fine might be a hardship, Councilwoman Laura Chick said.
“This is the carrot we’re dangling,” she told those at the meeting. “We want to help you avoid getting a bill from the city.”
At least one resident at the meeting attended under silent protest after receiving a bill for an alarm she said could not have been false. Neither she nor anyone else she knew was home when it occurred, she said.
Still, Van Nuys resident Sheila Beckerman said she knows an officer’s time is better spent elsewhere.
“It’s an excellent thing to do,” she said. “It’s important to keep officers on the streets rather than answering false calls.”