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Paynesville Press - March 13, 2002

False alarm calls drop in 2001

By Michael Jacobson

A false alarm policy in the city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township resulted in a 36 percent drop in false alarm calls in 2001 and is now in its second year in effect.

Both entities approved policies for false alarms, including fines for multiple calls, in 2001 at the urging of Paynesville Police Chief Tony Schmitt.

While Schmitt believes that alarm systems are a great deterrent to break-ins and possible robberies, he feels the police spent too much time responding to false alarms in 2000, when there were 85 false alarm calls.

"(Alarms are) meant to be in proper working order," he explained. "This (policy) was meant to be an get alarms fixed, so we wouldn't have to go out repeatedly for false alarm calls."

The policy established in 2001 gives property owners in the city and township up to two free false alarm calls. The city or township charges $50 for the third call, and $100 for the fourth and subsequent calls.

There were 54 false alarm calls in 2001, a 36 percent drop from 2000. "I guess another year will tell the story, but it did have some effect," said Schmitt.

In all, $1,050 in fines were assessed due to the new policy in 2001.

Most false alarms are due to either mechanical failure or human error, said Schmitt. False alarms can be avoided by adjusting the sensitivity level, repairing the sensors, or providing better training to employees, as most of the false alarms occur at businesses, he added. The new policy provides residents and business owners with an incentive to get their alarms in working order.

The issue is also a safety one for the police, stressed Schmitt, who face the danger of starting to treat alarm calls as routine due to the number of false calls. "If you've been to a place five or six times, there's a tendency to figure it's another false alarm call," explained Schmitt, "and not treat it as seriously as you should."

While Schmitt is pleased with the drop in false alarm calls in 2001, he hopes that it can continue to drop in 2002 because he feels 54 false alarm calls is still too high. "Hopefully, the ones who had problems last year will get them fixed, and we won't have to be there this year," he said.

Police records of false alarm calls start anew each calendar year, meaning every residence and business got another two free calls in 2002, starting in January.

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