At a time when government agencies should watch every dollar, too many local jurisdictions are nonchalant about responding to false security alarms — and not collecting a dime in return.
As Tribune writer Jonah Owen Lamb recently reported, law enforcement agencies in SLO County responded to 8,314 alarms last year. More than 5,000 of those turned out to be false calls.
Only one agency — the city of San Luis Obispo —collected substantial fees to help offset the cost of repeatedly responding to false alarms at the same locations. Many other cities had fees in place, but collected little or nothing at all.
The city of Grover Beach and the county of San Luis Obispo don’t even have false alarm fees on the books. Given the comprehensiveness of the county’s fee schedule, we find that odd.
Consider: The county charges for using a shower at a county park; for failing to show up for a therapy session; for getting a permit to remodel a spa or swimming pool; for losing a library book. There’s even a fee if a barcode on a library book is missing or damaged.
Yet the county charges nothing at all if it’s repeatedly called out to the same address on false alarms?
We have a problem with that for a few reasons:
Deputies charged with patrolling the county’s unincorporated areas are spread way too thin. In the North County, for example, there are times when just two deputies patrol 1,420 miles. Responding to false alarms — on top of everything else — is a waste of time and resources.
A fee for false alarms could be a powerful educational tool. If property owners have to pay a fine a time or two, we suspect they’ll be far more careful in the future.
It’s simply not fair to residents who don’t have security alarms — or are careful to avoid triggering them accidentally — to have law enforcement responding to false calls, especially when it happens repeatedly at the same locations.
We strongly urge the county — and all other agencies that collect little or no reimbursement for false alarms — to take a close look at the cost and to develop a fee schedule that’s fair to everyone.