Local News

TV Report, Citizen Complaints Cause Raleigh Committee To Delay Vote On Alarm Ordinance

Posted February 11, 2004 10:28 a.m. EST

— Because of citizens' outrage, Raleigh leaders have decided to take another look at their plan to charge people a fee for having a burglar alarm system.

WRAL first reported the story last week. The ordinance was set to take effect next month, but after WRAL's story aired, a flood of angry e-mail forced a delay.

It is alarming: Raleigh police officers get the call, only to find that most of the time, there's no emergency.

"Ninety-eight percent of the alarms that go off in this city that necessitate a police response are false," said Dawn Bryant, a Raleigh police attorney.

According to councilman Philip Isley, Raleigh police spend 13 percent of their time answering false alarms -- wasting $900,000 in taxpayer money.

That is why Isley wants to cut down on false alarms.

Last fall, the full council passed an

ordinance requiring everyone with an alarm to register with the city and pay a fee, or face a fine of $125.

The ordinance was set to take effect March 1.

Under the ordinance, people with alarm systems would be fined if they had more than two false alarms a year. Even if there were no false alarms, the registration fee would apply.

The problem was that not many people knew about the ordinance. Craig Mallard, in fact, found out about the fees by watching WRAL News.

When Mallard called the police department to ask about the fees, this is what he was told:

"No, there's no fine or fee," Mallard said he was told, "so don't worry about it."

Isley said the city had not educated everyone on the new ordinance because it was not active yet.

"People just didn't know about," Isley said. "That's part of the problem."

Isley said he heard from hundreds of upset people. So he moved the start date back to July to give the city a chance to tweak the ordinance. The ordinance is scheduled to go before the committee in April.

Alarm companies, homeowners and businesses opposed to the ordinance do not want to register with the city. They say only those who have false alarms should pay the fees.

"It sounds like a good way for the city to get some extra money out of people who shouldn't have to pay it," alarm owner Jacob Houser said. "I don't think it's a good idea to put everybody's name in a database where somebody could easily get into it and know everybody who has an alarm and who doesn't."

Said Jerry Creech, an alarm company owner: "I think it's going to be just another method of collecting taxes. You know, you're paying the fine before you commit the crime. That's not right."