Oakland to enforce false alarm ordinance

February 9, 2010 6:47:19 PM PST
If your home or business alarm system turns in a false alarm, it's going to cost you in Oakland. The city will start enforcing the false alarm ordinance it passed last year.

The doors and windows are activated, motion dectors are ready, you have time to get out of the house.

Too often an alarm sounds and there is no problem. It is an issue in Oakland and beginning March 1, they're going to start enforcing their false alarm ordinance.

"We have multiple corporations, companies, entities within the cities, private citizens that have false alarms. That takes a lot of time when people are not monitoring their alarm systems and taking care of things," Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts said.

The problem is that 98 percent of the alarm calls each year have been false. That's more than 24,000 false alarms a year. It's the cost of police officers' time and the expense to the city and taxpayers.

"We as an industry support the change because we need to bring it to the public. They need to be responsible for the operation of their system," Michael Salk from Reed Brothers Security said.

Alarm companies collect the annual permit fee of $25 for homes, $35 for commercial users. A false alarm will cost what they call a service fee; $84 for a burglary alarm and a robbery or panic alarm fee is $156.

There is an appeal process.

"I don't know if it's fair or not. I've had a number of false alarms because a cat opened the door or the kids came home when I didn't think they were," Oakland homeowner Don Stahlhut said.

Salk says that anyone who has a key to a commercial building needs to know the code and homeowners simply need to be aware of how it operates and to get maintenance.

"Technology has become better. It's become more affordable, so more people are using alarms than ever," he said.

If this ordinance works, it could be a model for other Bay Area cities.