A false alarm from an electronic security system could bring a $250 fine as Jackson County looks to combat a rising number of unnecessary alerts for law enforcement help.
Jackson County Commissioners Bob Strosser and Rick Dyer voted this month to adopt fines for false alarms. Commissioner Colleen Roberts voted against the fines. The new false alarm ordinance goes into effect Jan. 8.
The first and second false alarm at a property will lead to a warning, but a third false alarm will trigger a $100 fine. Fourth and subsequent false alarms will bring $250 fines for each occurrence, according to Jackson County Counsel Joel Benton.
The Jackson County Sheriff's Office, which requested the false alarm ordinance, produced numbers for commissioners about the rising number of false alarms.
The Sheriff's Office counted 610 false alarms through Oct. 10 of 2012. Those numbers rose to 830 false alarms through Oct. 10 of this year, said Sgt. Julie Denney.
The rising population, increased consciousness about safety and security, and security systems at marijuana facilities likely account for the increasing number of false alarms, she said.
"Sometimes marijuana grows are in really remote areas. During the off-season, people are not living there. We'll drive really far into the middle of nowhere and find nobody is there and it's gated and we can't access it anyway," Denney said.
False alarms waste the time of deputies who must patrol a county that covers 2,800 square miles, said Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan.
He said the county will train its code enforcement workers so they become experts in alarm systems. The workers will be able to help people learn how to operate their alarm systems properly and reduce false alarms.
"This program is meant to help people comply, not to punish people," Jordan said.
Denney said reducing the number of false alarms is the goal.
"Enforcement does have an impact, but the education side is more helpful. It will help if we can get people to be more aware of the problem," she said.
According to the national ADT home security company, thousands of cities have adopted fines for false alarms, with penalties usually going up for repeat offenses.
Some jurisdictions, including the cities of Seattle and Chicago, have reported false alarm rates of 98 percent, ADT said.
Security experts offer the following tips for preventing false alarms:
- Memorize your security code so you can turn off the alarm quickly and correctly.
- Teach people who are authorized to be in the home or at the business how to use the alarm system. They need to know how to arm and disarm the system, how to contact the security monitoring company and the code needed to cancel an alarm by phone.
- Alert the alarm company if you change your contact information.
- Look for movements that could trigger a false alarm, such as air drafts that blow on curtains, plants and decorations.
- If you have pets, use motion detectors that aren't triggered by their movements.
- Shut and lock all windows and doors before arming the system because an open door or window can trigger an alarm.
- Replace alarm batteries before they get low.
- Be aware that storms and power outages may trigger a false alarm.