Aiming to curb a high number of false-alarm burglary calls that Police Chief Robert Handy says eat up his staff’s time, the Huntington Beach City Council on Monday approved a five-year, $600,000 contract with a security system company to help educate residents about city rules.
The Police Department responds to more than 4,000 alarm-related calls each year, and less than 1% are crime-related, according to Handy. Alarms can go off accidentally when a system malfunctions or the equipment is old.
In 2017, police received 5,645 alarm-related calls, of which 3,816 were false alarms and 30 were for confirmed crimes. Handy told the council that those calls took up 2,544 hours of staff time.
Huntington Beach requires a $41 annual permit for a person whose alarm system directly or indirectly signals the Police Department. People are fined $50 for a third false alarm within a 12-month period, with fines for subsequent false alarms ranging from $100 to $500.
The city’s new contractor, Dallas-based PM AM Corp., will be responsible for providing education materials to help residents comply with local rules. It also will collect fees through an automated service. Handy said he expects the company to start by July, though appeals will still be handled by his department.
The council was scheduled Monday to vote on a resolution to modify false-alarm fines, but the item was postponed because Councilwoman Kim Carr suggested lowering the permit fee to $25 for senior citizens.
Handy is proposing a $25 fine for a first false alarm, which could be waived if the offender takes an online class similar to traffic school. Alternatives would be available for seniors and people who don’t have access to a computer, Handy said.
The fine for a second false alarm would be $50, and a third through fifth would cost $75 to $150, regardless of time period.
People without a permit would be fined $250 for a first false alarm but could have it waived if they obtain a permit within 10 days. Subsequent fines could range up to $1,000.
Handy pitched changing the city’s false-alarm reduction program during a study session in November. He told the council that security system vendors could help customers comply with the permit requirements and ensure they properly maintain their equipment.