Paradise Valley sets out to address mass false alarm calls

The Paradise Valley Police Department receives calls when a residential alarm goes off. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

The Paradise Valley Police Department responded to more than 3,000 false alarms in 2017, but local leaders are looking at developing strategies to address the significant drain on department resources.

Local officials estimate there are about 5,000 lots or properties within Paradise Valley town limits.

Since 2008 the amount of alarm calls that turn out to be false has fluctuated, police data shows, but it reached a peak of 3,682 in 2017.

Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert has asked for town council’s blessing to examine the issue devouring his department’s resources.

In 2017, 99.86 percent of the 3,682 security alarms the police department responded to were false, or didn’t result in the discovery of criminal activity, according to Chief Wingert. Moreover, only five alarms responded to were for an actual emergency.

False alarms are utilizing more hours than a full-time employee, Chief Wingert said in a March 22 presentation to Paradise Valley Town Council. The discussion ensued during a study session held at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Each ringing alarm the police department responds to uses a dispatcher and two officers.

Paradise Valley Police Chief Peter Wingert, at left, with Robert Kornovich, the town’s IT director, during a recent work session discussion. (File photo)

“You’re talking about a lot of time — 2,200 hours that we’ve spent on false alarms in 2017,” Chief Wingert said.

Chief Wingert says there is a handful of residences that account for several of these false alarm calls.

According to the police chief, the town has an ordinance on the books to enforce false alarms, but the municipality abandoned enforcement in 2012 for a variety of reasons.

Mayor Michael Collins recalled that resident disapproval of a $20 registration fee associated with a permitting system were partially behind the town’s abandonment of the enforcement code.

“At this point I just want to enforce what’s on the books and learn the lesson of why this didn’t work or what the problem was — maybe it did work,” Chief Wingert said. However, implementing a permitting system is not planned at the moment, he noted.

When the Town adopted the false alarm enforcement ordinance in 2009, fines for false alarms were implemented and the police department saw a 10 percent reduction in false alarms in 2010.

In 2012 the permitting section of the ordinance was repealed and false alarm assessments were no longer completed, Chief Wingert says. He would like to begin enforcing the false alarm ordinance again.

In an example given, a false alarm was defined as an alarm activated after triage by the alarm monitoring company, an officer is dispatched, and no evidence of a crime or emergency is observed. A fee schedule shown included:

  • First false alarm: $0 fee, warning letter sent;
  • Second (and each additional one) false alarms: $100 fee each time, invoice sent; and
  • Option to appeal to the town manager for acts of God, common cause or was criminal activity or an emergency.

Chief Wingert’s outline included notifying all residents by mailer, and including tips for avoiding false alarms. He also says a June reminder prior to monsoon season might be beneficial.

July sees the most amount of false alarm calls due to monsoon storms, Chief Wingert says, explaining that when the power goes out at a residence and the alarm system’s batteries are bad, it sends an alarm to dispatch.

“If we can send out a reminder in June that might cut it back too, so I’m trying to work the education side of it,” he said.

Chief Wingert says 683 alarm locations only had one false alarm last year.

“I have a Top 10,” he said of residences who’s alarms go off regularly. “If I could get the Top 10 to stop having false alarms I could cut this number by 8 percent.”

In February the town council approved a contract with Dynamark Monitoring to continue its legacy alarm system through the police department. Whether residents are a member of the police department’s alarm system or private services will not determine the false alarm enforcement, Chief Wingert says.

The town council gave a proverbial head-nod to Chief Wingert on the matter. Ordinance enforcement is aimed to begin July 1, Chief Wingert says.

News Services Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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