By MATTHEW ASTLE
An increase in false alarms prompted the Orem Department of Public Safety to request stricter penalities for unnecessary responses at the City Council meeting Tuesday.
Michael J. Larsen, of the Public Safety Department, presented a proposal to the City Council that outlined the ordinance and the proposed changes.
“The ordinance is confusing and difficult for alarm users to understand,” he said.
Many businesses in Orem are equipped with alarm systems that automatically call police or the fire department in an emergency. But Larsen said the Public Safety Department is having trouble with frequent false alarms. He said the number of false alarms has increased from about 2,500 in 1995 to over 4,000 in 1998.
Larsen said the Public Safety Department spent 3,545 man-hours last year responding to false alarms. This has cost over $100,000 in salaries, not to mention equipment expense. This makes it very difficult to respond to alarms, he said.
“I can assure you there is nothing more frustrating to police officers than responding to a false alarm,” Larsen said.
The proposed changes would require alarm users to obtain a permit from the city before installing an alarm. The permit would be free of charge, but would allow the city to have access to valuable information about alarm users.
The revised ordinance is modeled after Salt Lake City, Provo and Layton ordinances. It would allow three false alarms per year with a warning, but with increasing fines thereafter. The maximum fine would be $200 for the 10th false alarm in a year. Orem’s maximum fine for a false alarm is currently $50.
“If these fines are not in place, there’s really no incentive if something’s malfunctioning to go out and get it fixed,” said Jim Reams, Orem city manager.
The new ordinance will also provide for an appeals process for alarm users who feel they have been dealt with unfairly.
Councilmembers expressed support for the changes, acknowledging that if police officers are not responding to false alarms, they can be helping out the community in other ways. The Council will study the new ordinance and take action on it in a few weeks.
“This is definitely a way we can help our public safety people to reduce cost and man-hours,” Councilmember Dave Palfreyman said.