Rogue River hopes fines will reduce false alarms

ROGUE RIVER — Weary of calling off-duty officers to respond to false alarms triggered during early-morning hours, the city has proposed an ordinance that would charge property and business owners fines of $50 and $100 for repeat offenses.

The City Council will consider the ordinance at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 133 Broadway, Rogue River.

City and police officials say the fine is not intended to be punitive or provide a revenue stream for the city, but to encourage property owners with alarm systems to behave more responsibly.

Deputy Recorder Carol Weir said council members held a workshop last week to review the proposal and discuss the impact false alarms have on the city's small police department.

"The intent is for people to maintain, and train their staff in the operation of, their alarm systems and to cut down on department resources being dispatched for false alarms," Weir said.

When a false alarm is triggered, alarm monitoring companies automatically alert local law enforcement if property owners don't respond in a timely manner.

Under the proposed ordinance, property owners would be charged a $50 fine if they've had more than four false alarms. If they have more than nine, the fine goes up to $100.

Weir said city staff reviewed ordinances from surrounding cities and met with local emergency dispatch personnel and at least one security company to gather information.

With a small police department, Police Chief Ken Lewis said the city wanted to cut costs wherever possible and avoid calling officers to respond outside regular shifts for false alarms, which most often occur during early morning hours.

"We probably get 20 to 25 a year at this point," Lewis said.

"The thing is, when we have officers scheduled and working and on duty, there isn't any financial impact because they respond to any calls. But when we're understaffed like we are now, and we don't have people on duty, they have to be called from home because it's a priority call, then there's a huge financial impact."

Each time an officer is called out — whether on legitimate calls or false alarms — they are paid a minimum of two hours of overtime, which can cost about $50 or $60.

"An officer might have just got home and been asleep two hours. They certainly don't mind going out on a call that's really happening but to have to go for one that's a false alarm, it's kind of a drain," Lewis said.

"What we're really looking at is trying to create an incentive for people who have these alarms to make sure, to the best of their abilities, that they're in good operating condition. It's not a punitive law by any means, just encouraging folks to discover their own alarm system and what they're all about — and to be responsible for them."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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