West Side News

Columbus orders crackdown on repeated false alarms

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Two strikes and you're fine.

Three strikes and you're fined.

Public-safety personnel in Columbus are no longer being permitted any leeway when it comes to giving homeowners and business owners a pass for repeated false burglar and fire alarms, according to officer Scott Clinger, one of the Columbus Division of Police liaisons to the Northland area.

Speaking to the Northland Community Council April 1, Clinger said unless the call generated by the alarm is canceled before officers or firefighters arrive at the scene, citations will be issued after the first two instances in a calendar year.

"It's not their choice," he said. "The officers have to cite you or they get disciplined."

Repeated false alarms can result in increasingly higher fines, he said.

According to the municipal code, there is no fee assessed for the first two false alarms, Clinger said.

False alarms three and four are assessed fees of $100 each -- and that's on the alarm user, not the dealer.

The fee is $200 each for the next two false alarms. That doubles to $400 on false alarms seven, eight and nine, and doubles once again to $800 for the next three instances within a 12-month period.

"They can get awful darn expensive," Clinger said.

He advised residents and business owners to ensure their alarm systems are functioning properly and to exercise caution about accidentally setting them off.

The strict enforcement of the false-alarm fee schedule is part of an ongoing effort city officials announced in March. Similar crackdowns are taking place around the state.

Columbus records show the city logged 12,298 false alarms in 2012 and 13,326 in 2013, according to Glenn Rutter, a licensing officer with the public-safety department.

Public-safety officials plan to review the ordinance that penalizes the city's worst offenders. The division of police will begin training patrol officers in the next few weeks to better identify and document problem homes and businesses.

Communities have struggled for years to find ways to reduce false alarms, most of which are for burglary calls. Officials said a small number of alarm users typically are to blame for the sometimes huge burden placed on the public-safety agencies that are obligated to respond.

Columbus Dispatch reporter Theodore Decker contributed to this story.

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