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9:40 AM Tue, Sept. 25th

PD reports reduction in false alarms during first year of ordinance

PRESCOTT - A City of Prescott alarm ordinance that resulted in a 28-percent drop in the number of false alarms over the past year could be up for some adjustments in coming months.

Police Chief Mike Kabbel appeared before the Prescott City Council on Tuesday to report on the false-alarm ordinance that went into effect on July 1, 2011.

When the police department first proposed the new ordinance this past year, it reported that officers were annually responding to nearly 3,000 false alarms caused by issues such as faulty systems and user error.

Those calls, in turn, were taking officers away from more crucial matters, police officials said.

In response, the City Council approved an ordinance that imposed fines for repeat false-alarm offenders. Under the ordinance, owners face fines in $100 increments after two false-alarm warnings.

For the most part, Kabbel said the ordinance had been effective in bringing down the number of the false alarms.

While Prescott Police responded to 2,524 false alarms in fiscal year 2011, the number had dropped to 1,807 in fiscal year 2012. With each false-alarm call occupying about 18 minutes of officers' time, Kabbel said the ordinance has freed up hundreds of hours.

"This reduction has allowed me to reallocate services," Kabbel told the council.

Even so, he said, the system experienced some challenges during its first year.

For example, Kabbel said the current ordinance does not provide enough information to officers responding to the calls.

"We don't know whose alarm we're responding to, and whether it's a renter or an owner," Kabbel said after the meeting.

In some cases, he said, the police department is sending notifications to the last known owner of a business.

To help improve the tracking, Kabbel proposed amending the ordinance to require alarm registration.

In addition, he asked for the removal of the exemption for government agencies, which are not covered under the existing ordinance.

Without the tighter requirements, Kabbel was doubtful that the city could reduce the false alarms much more than the current level. With the amendments, he was hopeful that false alarms could decrease by 30 to 35 percent, compared with 2011 numbers.

For the next step, Kabbel said the police department would draft changes to the ordinance, and likely would take those recommendations to the council within the next several weeks.

Kabbel reported that the new ordinance resulted in the issuance of $69,789 in fines. Of that total, the department has collected $46,182. Kabbel explained that the department turns unpaid fines over to collections after 90 days.

With the administration of the program costing $32,241 over the past year, Kabbel reported that the system was $13,840 "to the positive."

Mayor Marlin Kuykendall voiced concerns, however, about whether the system could continue to pay for itself in coming years.

"The more efficient we get, the less money we're going to collect," Kuykendall said.

Kabbel responded that if the department can get to the goal of a 30-to-35-percent reduction in false alarms, "I'd be very happy with that, and it would still sustain itself."

Councilman Steve Blair noted that the false alarms require the response of two officers, which affects the department's staffing levels. "I think it's very important that people take care of their alarms," he said.

If the registration requirement gets council approval, Kabbel is suggesting a six-month grace period.