It’s been two years in the making, but the city of Merced appears to be making moves to implement a false-alarm ordinance, which officials say could save the city from unnecessary law enforcement expenses and time.
The City Council this week unanimously directed staff to come back with an ordinance next month for approval, though it could be temporary. The council landed on a nine-month pilot program for enforcing the ordinance citywide.
Any person or entity using an alarm or planning to install an alarm would be required to get a permit from the city at no cost, but those without a permit would face greater fines if police respond to a false alarm.
Marvin Dillsaver, communications supervisor for Merced police, said from 2011 to 2015 the city saw 26,258 alarm calls. Of those, 525 or 1.7 percent turned out to be legitimate alarms.
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26,258 The number of alarms that triggered police response from 2011 to 2015
Officials said Merced is not alone, noting that the national average for false alarms is between 94 percent and 98 percent in the past several years. Dillsaver said the city average for calls has remained stagnant from 2011 to 2015.
The council considered a separate system for public schools, the worst offender when it comes to false alarms, but instead residents, businesses, churches and public schools would be treated equally under the ordinance.
The first two false alarms within a year would be free of any fines, and the third’s $50 fine could be waived if the offender completed a training. The fourth and fifth false alarm would cost $50 each, and any beyond that would be $100 each. Anyone without a permit would be charged an additional $100 fee to every false alarm.
Officials said residents make up a small portion of those triggering false alarms. Schools, churches and businesses are far more likely to cause the problem. The equipment is often installed incorrectly, officials said, or employees are not properly trained on using the system.
525The number of alarms from 2011 to 2015 that were legitimate
The ordinance is set to go before the council in February.
Also during the meeting, the council agreed to pay $78,000 to two separate consulting firms, which will study the Merced Sun-Star building at 3033 G St. for its potential to be the next headquarters of the Merced Police Department. The firms to study the structure are Stockton-based WMB Architects Inc. and Krazan & Associates Inc. of Clovis.