Columbus could have billed about $2.1 million in fines for false alarms last year. It collected nearly $1.4 million, reports the Columbus Dispatch. The city is in the middle of a review and overhaul of its regulations for alarm companies. Draft rules would change the fine schedule, force alarm companies to tell customers they must have a city license, and update rules to account for new technology. It also would require battery backups on alarms and for alarm companies to test systems after installation to make sure they’re working. The fines are needed to deter false calls to police, who need to dispatch officers, supervisors, helicopters and medics depending on the emergency, said Ramona Patts of the city’s Division of Support Services.
“Every alarm that we have has a different level of response by police. … They all get dispatched until they’re canceled by radio,” Patts said. “There’s a lot of manpower hours being spent.” In 2016, Columbus police received 47,566 alarm calls, with more than three-quarters of those false alarms. “False alarms cost money,” Councilman Mitchell Brown said. “If people are aware of their alarm systems and they’re functioning properly, it minimizes the engagement of law enforcement or Public Safety to respond and just have it be a false alarm. City code requires every home or business with an alarm to obtain a $35 city license, but Patts said alarm companies frequently don’t tell customers. When police respond to an alarm, they often find out that it is unlicensed. The proposed change would bump the residential license fee to $45 with a $25 annual renewal.