On an overnighter at Gran and Pappy’s house, she pushed the alarm panic button because she thought it was the light switch hanging as the button was from the lamp cord, made convenient for Pappy who has health issues.
Lakewood Police arrived to what turned out to be a false alarm.
Nearly a month later a bill arrived in the mail for $200.00.
Pappy was not happy.
The grandfather could have appealed – for an additional $50 – but, not wanting to aggravate his heart condition further, he paid the fine.
This true story above, and variations of the same, has been repeated how many times in the City of Lakewood?
According to Lakewood Municipal Code (LMC) Chapter 9A.13.020 (E), “The Alarm Administrator (AA) – the person or persons designated by the Chief of Police to administer the provisions of this Chapter – shall conduct an annual evaluation and analysis of the effectiveness of this Chapter and identify and implement system improvements as warranted.”
However, in email exchanges with the Lakewood Police Department (LPD) about this and related matters, turns out “there is not a written evaluation but an ongoing appraisal of the program’s effectiveness.”
Is there research then indicating alarms were generated by human error vs. malfunctioning alarms?
According to the LPD email, the only category of record is “whether or not the alarm was false.”
But according to the LMC, the AA is duty-bound to record information on alarm dispatch requests that includes not only where officers went, when they went but also why they went, supplying “the cause of the alarm signal, if known” (09A.13.100, B).
In fact, the AA “may require that a conference be held with an alarm user and the alarm installation company or monitoring company responsible for repairing or monitoring of the alarm system to review the circumstances of each false alarm.”
Why is it important to know if there was – or was not – cause for alarm?
Because if the problem is the company’s they may need to fix their equipment.
If, on the other hand, the problem is the citizen’s, then he/she may need to be fixed.
In fact, again according to the LMC, the AA “may waive a false alarm fee due to a history of false alarms that is identified as chronic equipment failure and the alarm user has documented work orders of attempts to repair the alarm system” (09A.13.110,D).
So equipment malfunctions – and those who installed the alarm buttons – can indeed be identified.
Conversely, with regards the person who pushed the panic button – or in the case of the instance that prompted this investigation: pulled the light cord – proper use of alarm systems that work properly can require classes to prevent improper use. “The Alarm Administrator may establish an alarm user awareness class (to) teach alarm users how to avoid creating false alarms” (09A.13.100).
Clearly, in either case – company or family – fixing what’s broken requires knowing the cause of the alarm.
Not just collecting fines based upon whether the alarm was simply false or not.
Does the LPD allow “grace” alarms, that is to say no fines for first time violators?
Does the LPD assess incrementally increased fines based on the number of preventable alarms within a designated period of time?
Then what can a citizen to do if an alarm – for whatever reason – is caused, the police come, and a bill follows?
How many residential alarm users paid the appeal fee of $50 and took the time to “set forth in writing the reasons for the appeal and delivering the appeal to the police within 20 business days after receipt of notice of the action;” followed by a recorded hearing conducted by the LPD in the next 30 days in which recorded hearing evidence is considered, a decision thereupon rendered within the 15 days following that, the $50 appeal fee returned if the appeal is successful (09A.13.140)?
How many “exhausted the appeals process”?
“We had two formal appeals in all of 2014,” replied the LPD.
Why only two?
Could it be that exhausting the appeals process is exhausting?
If so, that’s too bad.
“We typically waive the fine on appeal with additional education given on the process and how to prevent future false alarms,” per the LPD.
Or maybe the appeals process isn’t utilized because $100 (false burglar alarm) or $200 (false panic, false robbery, accidental ‘light-switch’ pull-cord alarms) aren’t, relatively speaking, all that much contrasted say with exhausting processes, or existing heart conditions.
Whatever the reason people don’t, apparently, find the appeals process appealing, how many simply put the check in the mail? In just 2014 alone, $124,482.34 was collected by the LPD “for the alarm program that includes both the annual assessment and fee for false alarms.”
One last question. Does it work?
Per the LPD, “the current program and code was enacted in early 2009. In the 4 years before, we averaged 2,377 dispatched alarm calls per month. In the 5 years since, we have averaged 658 alarm calls per month (the majority of which are still false). This drop in calls corresponds directly to the time of the alarm program implementation.”
Or, the drop in calls could also be that the police department has been eliminated from being alerted altogether, or that the darned thing was just turned off hoping the potential robber can read the ‘site-secured’ signs left posted in the yard.
In any case, no cause for alarm.
Nothing to see here.
This has been a public service message.