The Richmond Police Department is sounding an alarm on the number of false alarm calls it receives from buildings.
An estimated 94-percent of the time Richmond police are called about an alarm going off at a building, it is not an emergency but rather due to a faulty alarm system or human error by owners, employees or building occupants, police say.
The false alarms are dangerous, as they reduce the number of police units that can respond to actual emergencies, and they cost “thousands of dollars in wasted personnel costs,” according to Police Chief Chris Magnus.
Tonight, Magnus is scheduled to introduce an amendment to the city’s alarm ordinance at City Council that he believes will reduce false alarm calls to police and help recoup the cost of responding to them.
The amendment will come at a cost to those using alarm systems that can summon police.
Magnus proposes requiring alarm users to obtain and pay for a 2-year, $30 alarm permit for such alarm systems, saying money generated from the permit fee will help cover the cost of police response.
Additionally, the ordinance would require that all newly installed alarm control panels meet Security Industry Association standards, among other requirements.
The ordinance would also reduce the number of times building owners get free false alarm calls per year. Under the current rules, building owners get four free false alarm calls a year before they face a fine, a right not given to owners of most other jurisdictions, Magnus said.
Magnus is proposing to reduce the number of free false alarm calls to two per year. Permit holders would be fined $100 for a third false alarm, $150 for a fourth false alarm call and $25 for each false alarm call thereafter, according to the proposed ordinance.
The amendments are being introduced tonight, with no action is expected by council.