The Mayor, City Councilman Jon Camp and I all received an email yesterday from a disgruntled citizen who is upset to learn that he must pay a $25 annual fee to register his residential alarm system. He opined that the two-year old ordinance changes here in Lincoln would do nothing to reduce false alarms. I've given several updates on this topic here on my blog before, but here is the response I sent him:
"The Mayor's Office has asked me to respond to your email about your disagreements with the City's alarm registration and excess false alarm ordinances. Ordinances of this type are virtually universal in cities of Lincoln's size. We have a fairly conservative ordinance, in that the cost of registration is comparatively low, the number of "free" false alarms comparatively high, and the fee for excess false alarms comparatively low. These ordinance changes were adopted to both decrease false alarms and to place more of the cost for responding to false alarms on the users of such systems, rather than the general taxpayers.
With respect to the impact of more restrictive false alarm ordinances in our region and in Lincoln, I can assure you these policies have made a significant difference. As a practical matter, over the past several years alarm companies have instituted procedures to verify alarms more effectively, and to provide better training and support to customers in order to avoid an excessive number of false alarms at a business or residence. Since our peak year, The number of false alarms in Lincoln has declined by more than 2,000 per year, a 45% reduction. The number of addresses with five or more false alarms during a calendar year has decreased by 82%, from a peak of 242 to only 44 last year. This has occurred despite the fact that Lincoln's population continues to grow by about 3,600 per year.
From my standpoint, these are certainly impressive results. Each false alarm results in the dispatch of at least two police officers, and officers are typically tied up on an alarm anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more. Since we respond to alarms in an emergency driving condition, there is also a risk to both the officers' safety and that of other motorists. Reducing false alarms both conserves resources and improves safety. I regret the fact that you disagree with this public policy decision by our elected officials, but I wanted you to know why I continue to support this approach to alarm registration and excess false alarm fees. "