Anyone who wastes police time by reporting false alarms could be charged more under a proposed Red Deer bylaw.
Councillors heard that RCMP officers dealt with 2,470 false security alarms in 2012 — about half were businesses and the rest residential calls. Of all the alarms police responded to after being notified by security companies, 97 per cent turned out to be false alarms.
Scott Tod, a former RCMP superintendent who is now the city’s policing services manager, said that’s a lot of wasted time when police officers and administrators could be dealing with criminal matters.
Tod proposed higher charges and penalties for false alarm calls in a bylaw amendment that received first reading at Monday’s council meeting. He said it would put Red Deer more in line with other municipalities, and better reflect the actual cost of dealing with false alarms.
Under the proposal, residents would play $80 to cover the cost of police being called out to their home needlessly, compared to a previous $20. Small and large businesses would both pay $121 per false alarm call, compared to a previous $40 or $60.
If a security company is not first calling a home or business owner to verify whether the alarm warrants a call to police before contacting the RCMP, then that company could be slapped with higher fines. A first offence, under the proposed bylaw amendment, is $150, compared to a previous $50. A second and subsequent fines would be $500, instead $250.
Tod said, “This is not about generating revenue” or penalizing people for mistakes. It’s about getting citizens to realize that there’s a real cost to police responding to false alarms. “Hopefully it will start some discussions,” he added — and improve communications between home and business owners and alarm companies so police officers are only called when needed.
The proposed bylaw removes a previous rule about requiring permits for new alarm installations. “We’re moving away from permitting towards a penalty system,” said Mayor Tara Veer, who was among the council members who expressed concern about all the time spent chasing false alarms “when it could be invested elsewhere.”
The bylaw amendment is expected to return for second and third reading later this spring.