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O’Fallon seeks to address problems with ‘false alarms’

Crying wolf in O’Fallon, even accidentally, may soon become a bad idea for business owners and residents.

At a work session on June 26, the O’Fallon City Council listened to a presentation from Police Department Capt. John Neske regarding the fiscal and manpower impact on the city caused by responding to false security alarms in 2013.

Neske said the police department responded to 1,583 alarms in 2013, 647 of which were residential and 936 were from businesses. Approximately 70 percent were deemed false alarms. Neske told the council that only .5 percent of calls were legitimate calls; the other 30 percent of the alarms were chalked up to storms, power outages or unavoidable accidents.

Currently, the department gives business and residential owners three warnings. On the fourth false alarm report, they receive a $100 fine. In 2013, the department collected $100 from residence false alarm fines, and $6,000 (out of $8,800 owed) from business false alarm fines.

Additionally, Neske said the department spent a total spent a total of 232 man-hours and $6,252.27 in salaries responding to the false alarms.

The department’s recommendation was to adopt a fine policy similar to the one currently used in St. Peters, which fines residents and businesses beginning with the second false alarm offense – $50 the first time and $100 for each subsequent offense.

Neske said that by using the St. Peters formula the O’Fallon police department could have collected $28,500 in 2013.
“Now I realize this is not a money-making project,” Neske said. “But what we would like to do is reduce the amount of false alarm calls.”

After Neske’s presentation, Councilmember Jeff Schwentker (Ward 4) expressed concern that putting the charge on the residents was not the correct thing to do.

“A lot of them (alarms) that go off I think is probably the fault of the alarm or the alarm company,” Schwentker said. “How do we reduce it? I don’t know if charging the residents is going to do anything.”

Neske said that many times the problem causing a false alarm is an easy fix.

“They’ve got motion alarms inside their businesses, and they have the balloons that float around,” Neske said as an example. “And boy, after you’ve gone to that for the third time, it’s like, why don’t you get rid of the balloons?”

Ultimately the council passed a motion to have the city administrator work on an amendment to the false alarm ordinance to emulate the St. Peter’s policy.

 

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