Citing high numbers of false alarm burglary calls from businesses and residents eat up time for the Huntington Beach Police Department, Chief Robert Handy is proposing a program to try to reduce those numbers and make more efficient use of staff time.
The False Alarm Reduction Program, Handy said, is a “more innovative approach” that police departments nationwide are using to partner with security system vendors.
Handy told the City Council during a study session this week that vendors could help customers comply with the city’s security alarm permit requirement and ensure they properly maintain their equipment.
A formal proposal will be presented to the council at a future meeting.
Alarms can go off accidentally when the system malfunctions, the equipment is old or a dog sets if off, Handy said.
Two officers are dispatched to every alarm call, and the department’s helicopter is sent to about 30% of them, Handy said. However, less than 1% of such calls are confirmed to be legitimate, he said.
In Huntington Beach, a $41 annual permit is required for a person whose alarm system directly or indirectly signals the Police Department. People are fined $50 for a third false alarm call within a 12-month period, with fines for subsequent false alarms ranging from $100 to $500.
Of about 80,000 residences and 7,000 commercial units in the city, roughly 30% have the required permit, Handy said.
Handy suggested modifying the city’s fees and fines, which he said could help the department recover its costs.
Instead of charging an annual permit fee, he suggested a $25 fine for a first false alarm, which could be waived if the offender took an online class similar to traffic school. The fine for a second false alarm would be $50 and a third would cost $75. The fines for subsequent false alarms would not change.
People without a permit would be fined $250 for a first false alarm unless they obtain the permit within 10 days.
If the department implements the new fee schedule, it could recover $62,010 in costs for 2,480 first false alarms and $34,344 for 687 second false alarms, according to Handy.
In 2017, police received a total of 5,645 alarm calls, of which 3,816 were false alarms and 30 were for confirmed crimes.