The South Bend Police Department, as well as the security companies, must spend a significant amount of time and money responding to false alarms. You as the system user may also experience the inconvenience of false alarms and the assessment of fines. False alarms must concern each of us. They do not reduce crime and can cause a certain level of complacency among all concerned parties. They also increase the liability and endanger the safety and welfare of the public, responsible parties, and responding agencies.
What is a False Alarm?
According to South Bend City Code 12-2, a false alarm is any alarm, whether audible or silent, to which the responding officer finds no evidence or situation requiring a response by a police officer, such as an attempted crime, such as a robbery or burglary, a crime in progress or a crime that has just occurred.
A false alarm includes a site where one or more doors or windows are found unsecured and there is no evidence of unlawful entry. Alarms that are activated due to a power outage are also considered false.
Silent robbery alarm set-off by owners or employees to report an incident other than a robbery is also a false alarm.
Examples of False Alarm Events
» Malfunctioning alarm systems
» Owner, visitor, real estate agents, cleaning crews or other employee error in disarming the alarm system
» Doors or windows left open or ajar
» Animals locked inside and moving about the premises
» Mail being dropped through a door mail-drop slot
» Power outages coupled with improper battery back-up system
» Telephone line problems
» An overly-sensitive system that activates when persons rattle a door or window
» Errors by the alarm monitoring (central station) service
» Drapes or balloons blowing in the breeze
What can you do to reduce false alarms?
- Make sure everyone is familiar with alarm system operations
- Secure doors and windows before turning on system
- Be aware of changes in the environment (i.e., new animals, design changes, seasonal decorations, plants, etc.)
- Notify monitoring facility of any and all changes (i.e., house guests, name changes, new employees, termination of employees, etc.)
- Equipment should be routinely inspected, and maintained by qualified personnel
City Ordinance on Response Procedures
Sec. 12-2. Response to alarm
(a) Whenever an alarm system is activated in the City of South Bend which results in an emergency response to the premises by the Police or Fire Department, the officer on the scene of the activated alarm system shall inspect the area protected by the system and shall attempt to determine whether the emergency response was required or was a false alarm. It shall constitute a false alarm if the officer cannot inspect the area protected by the alarm system because of a fence or other obstruction, and the keyholder fails to arrive at the premises within fifteen (15) minutes of the officer's arrival.
(b) If the officer at the scene of the activated alarm system determines the alarm to be false, the officer shall make a report of the false alarm, notice of which shall be sent to the alarm user at the address of the premises, or at the known address of the alarm user, if different from the premises address. If a false alarm requires the arrival of officers from both Police and Fire Departments, the officers shall make reports of the false alarm to both respective departments. The officer shall remain at the location of the alarm for a maximum of fifteen (15) minutes or until a keyholder or agent arrives at the premises or contacts the Department, except as provided in subsection (d) below. If, after fifteen (15) minutes or after the key holder has notified the officer of a time which he/she would arrive at the scene but has failed to arrive during the time specified, and the officer at the scene has determined that no emergency exists, based on a visual review of the premises, and has concluded that the alarm appears to be a false alarm, the officer may leave the scene in order to respond to other public safety matters.
(c) The Police Chief or Fire Chief, or his designee, shall have the right to inspect the premises to which a response has been made and may cause such inspection to be made at any reasonable time after the occurrence of a false alarm.
(d) No provision in this chapter shall interfere with an officer's ability to respond to an emergency or crime.
(e) The Police and Fire Departments shall maintain records of all false alarms to which each department responds, and shall send notice of the first false alarms to the user, so as to provide notice of the potential imposition of a fine or a service fee as provided in this chapter. The responding department is to note the name and telephone number of the alarm agent on the false alarm notice.
Fines for False Alarm Response
Sec. 12-3. False alarm fines
After an alarm user causes or allows the issuance of any combination of three (3) false police or fire alarms, it shall be unlawful for the alarm user to cause or allow the issuance of a false alarm. Each false alarm subsequent to the third false alarm shall constitute a separate offense.
The Police and Fire Departments shall maintain appropriate records of all false alarms to which each department responds. After a department responds to three (3) false alarms at a location on or after January 1 and before December 31 of any calendar year the department which responded to the scene of an unlawful false alarm shall impose on and collect from the alarm user a fine for that unlawful false alarm.
False alarm fines shall be in the amount of one hundred dollars ($100.00) for the fourth false alarm and two hundred dollars ($200.00) for the fifth and each false alarm thereafter from January 1st through December 31 of a calendar year!
It is our sincere desire to provide the public with this information to reduce false alarms to an acceptable level. A reduction in false alarms allows your local law enforcement and security personnel to more effectively serve and protect you. Your comments and cooperation are essential to the success of this program and we welcome your involvement. Working together, we will continue to have a safe and secure place to live.