Monday, December 6, 2010

Seems to be working

Lincoln's City Council passed a new alarm ordinance that became effective on July 1.  The ordinance establishes an enhanced fee structure for repeat false alarms during a two year period.  The intent of the ordinance was to reduce false alarms.  Through the end of November in 2010, our officers have responded to 2,583 false alarms.  During the same period in 2009, we responded to 2,917 false alarms a reduction of 11%, and its picked up steam since the ordinance went into effect.

The decrease is being driven by repeat false alarms.  In 2009, there were 281 premises with three or more false alarms in the first 11 months, and they accounted for 1,301 of the false alarms.  In 2010 that number has fallen to 218 premises, accounting for 985 alarms.  This is exactly what the ordinance sought to accomplish, and I suspect the results will improve even further with time.

The alarm trend has been good since our peak year of 2002.  During the first 11 months of 2002, we responded to 4,354 false alarms--almost 1,800 more than we have rolled on from January through November this year  When you consider that each of those false alarms requires at least two units, that's a huge impact over time.  During the first 11 months of that peak year of 2002, we had 483 premises with three or more false alarms, accounting for 2,771 of the total false alarms.  So the repeat false alarms in 2010 are well under half the 2002 level.


Anonymous said...

What causes false alarms and how are Owners reducing the frequency of false alarms?

Herb said...

Have you considered the other result of this ordinance?

As a salesman, I spend my day in and out of small businesses all over Lincoln. The paperwork and fee for the new ordinance is routinely referred to as another example of government making life more difficult for a small business person. Since these are the folks who rarely, if ever have a false alarm, they feel overly burdened by having to comply with this ordinance.

I truly feel you personally have better things to do with your time, Chief, but it would be interesting to have the Council study this issue at some point (one year? two years?) and see if the businesses that consistently have false alarms have changed. It would also be interesting to see a ranking on a basis of number of employees. There is a huge difference between a business with a hundred employees that has someone in charge of facilities and a maintenance crew versus a mom and pop shop.

Most of the folks I am talking with are in a technologically changing industry that requires a large amount of expensive equipment that must be protected by alarms. These are generally one to four employees, and their business has been affected by the economy more than most.

Tom Casady said...


Well, virtually every City has a similar alarm regulation scheme, and our's is cheaper than most. Nonetheless, this change in the law wasn't at my suggestion: it originated with a City Council member, and passed unanimously. The fee is hardly onerous--$35 per year, if you handle it through your own alarm company. I find it interesting when an alarm user complains about the registration, then learns that you've been required to obtain a permit for your alarm for the past 28 years.

Tom Casady said...


ThIs Is a couple of years old, but I doubt it has changed much.

Nikkidemas said...

It can't hurt that Circuit City's now gone.

Anonymous said...


I don't think that PDF on the language access plan will answer many of the poster's questions regarding false alarms.

Tom Casady said...

5:22, 9;28-

Whoops, that was the wrong link! Here's the correct one.

Steve said...


Are you sure you got the right link to answer 5:22's question? I didn't see the connection (but I didn't read it all, either).

As for the burden on business owners to register and pay fines for false alarms, they can certainly opt to go without if they think it's not worth it. I don't know much about alarm systems, but I would guess that the majority of false alarms are due to the mistakes, ignorance, or apathy on the part of business owners, their employees, or the alarm system installers. I don't think the city should have to pay for any of that, which we would be doing if we didn't somehow recoup the losses caused by false alarms.

Anonymous said...


Do most "unknown cause" trips come from a circuit with a motion detector?

Anonymous said...

$35 times how many "registrations" per year?

How much time is spent on the forms by the business owner,as well as by the city?

Time = $

Not registering = $$$

Having your alarm only working through an alarm company = ineffective alarm.

"Virtually every city" if every other Police Chief jumps off a cliff, will you want to also?

Anonymous said...


I wasn't aware that a police chief could enact ordinances on their own. Oh, that's right, they can't. That's the city council. They enact it, the police just enforce it. See how that works?

If you don't like the registration ordinance, then complain to the city council.

Anonymous said...

We have a home alarm system. We have paid the fee. We believe this was handled the wrong way (pushed through without us even knowing about it) and object to the fee EVERY year.

We also wonder how many chose to DISCONNECT their system, rather than pay the fee every year. This would result in less false alarms, but more crimes to be solved!

Tom Casady said...


Well, actually registration is every other year. The fee for a residential alarm is $60, which works out to $30 per year, but you get a discount if you register through your alarm company, in which case the fee is $40, thus $20 per year.


You are correct. This ordinance change was not initiated by LPD, and it was not introduced at our request.

Tom Casady said...

BTW, 6:15, there were three readings, a public hearing, and several news stories as this worked it's way through Council.

Herb said...

9:37: I would guess the comment left by the anon poster had nothing to do with thinking the Chief initiated the ordinance., but I had almost the same thought in response to the Chief's reply to me. His first statement was "virtually every City has a similar alarm regulation scheme". I used to tell Mom everybody else got to stay out late, go to a party, etc., and her first reply was "If all your friends decide to jump off a cliff, are you going too?". Saying that other cities have a similar law certainly is no reason to bring one here.

The folks I was talking with, and about, don't find the $35 "onerous", they just don't see the reason for it. It's bad business: the fee isn't high enough to offset the cost it is supposed to cover, the method of bringing to the "customer" was poorly executed, and it does not provide the "customer" (the person paying the fee) any benefit.

These are the reasons I was asking for the City Council to look at it's effectiveness. I don't see where I complained about the Chief initiating or asking for the law. I understand his desire for a change to status quo, but the people it affects most are not the people (or businesses) causing the problem.

AFAIK, the business people I have talked to have never had a false alarm, have been very glad the police were called in the case of an alarm going off, and have had nothing but stellar results from cases being closed after they were victimized. I do know of a business that closed because the loss of income as a result of even temporarily losing their equipment permanently damaged their bottom line.