The Conway Police Department has answered 2,716 alarm calls since the beginning of 2017, an increase of 200 from this time last year.
Of those, about 95 percent were false alarms, according to CPD.
“A lot of the alarm calls stem from employees basically typing in the wrong code or not typing the code in a timely manner. That also goes for the cleaning crews and delivery personnel who go into the businesses after hours,” CPD Maj. Chris Harris said.
In 2016, the city of Conway amended the city’s alarm ordinance (O-16-45) to include false alarms and their consequences.
The amended ordinance states: “No alarm system shall be allowed to report, remit or communicate a false alarm,” and “If a false alarm occurs, the alarm user shall be liable for fees in the following amounts based on the number of false alarms within a calendar year upon demand by the city.”
The ordinance then lists the fees by frequency of offense.
There are no penalties for the first three false alarms. Four false alarms from a single location will result in fees of $50 per responding agency; five false alarms from a single location will result in fees of $100 per responding agency; and six or more false alarm calls from a single location will result in fees of $250 per responding agency.
Fees for false alarms must be paid in full within 30 days of a violation. A $50 late fee is added each month a false alarm fee is not paid.
The ordinance also applies to homeowners with personal security systems.
The CPD said, starting in 2018, there will be zero tolerance for more than three false alarms in a calendar year.
Major Harris told the Log Cabin that the false alarms create “a lot of wasted man hours that could be spent patrolling other areas of our city.”
For each alarm call, the CPD sends two officers who will be on the call for roughly 20 minutes.
“Basically, we have used close to 1,500 man hours on alarm calls this year,” Harris said.
The police department is also worried about the safety issues that could arise from the false alarms.
“We train our officers to treat every alarm call as if someone is actively breaking into the business or building. If we go to the same business 15-20 times a year because of false alarms, at some point, an officer is going to get complacent and that will be the time the business is actually getting burglarized,” Harris said.
Businesses are asked to ensure employees are properly trained on alarm activation and deactivation.
In many cases, false alarms occur when employees are opening or closing the business.
The CPD recommends having the security company that monitors the business call the on-call person before contacting the police department.
“[A] majority of the time, the alarm company can and will call the business, and an employee will give the proper passcode and that will be the end of it,” Harris said, adding that businesses should make sure their alarm systems are working properly because if the system is faulty, it could result in the police department responding to a single location multiple times in one night.
The CPD says its ultimate goal is to see zero false alarm calls, so that more time can be spent patrolling businesses and neighborhoods.