Feb 18, 2013 9:10 PM by Zach Thaxton
More than 97 percent of the 10,529 burglary alarm calls responded to by Colorado Springs police in 2011 and 2012 were false alarms, according to data obtained by News 5. In those two years, the lowest percentage of false alarm calls was 94.9 percent in September 2012, the highest was 99.3 percent in February 2011 when only 3 burglary alarms out of 441 responded to were "good" alarms.
"I would consider that a problem," said Tina Young, Public Safety Communications Manager for the City of Colorado Springs. "I think that the vendors need to tell the customers what to expect if they have a false alarm and that there can be charges from the police department." A Colorado Springs city ordinance allows the police department to impose fines for repeat false burglary alarms. The first false alarm response in a one-year registration period is free of charge, but a second response brings a $30 fine, a third brings a $75 fine and mandatory check of alarm equipment, and the fourth false alarm response requires a $100 fine. Each false alarm response after the fourth alarm brings a $200 fine and police can opt not to respond to the alarm.
"The fine goes to the alarm user, whether it's a commercial business or a residence," said Valory Gage, Alarm Administrator for Colorado Springs Police. Gage says $88,328 was billed for false burglary alarm fines in 2012. $74,508 of those fines was collected.
False burglary alarms can have many triggers. "User error is probably one of the biggest reasons," Young said. "Somebody might go into a home and accidentally set their alarm off. Another common cause of false alarms are weather-related. Wind can cause false alarms, faulty equipment can cause false alarms." CSPD says 52 percent of burglar alarm incidents in 2012 were from residential structures and 48 percent were from commercial structures. Gage says it's hard to tell who the "top offenders" are. "Due to the nature of every alarm site having their own individual anniversary date, I am unable to determine, with the data available to me, who the top 3 violators may be," Gage said in an email.
When a burglar alarm call is received, CSPD goes through a process called enhanced call verification. First, contact is made between police and the alarm vendor. "We ask the alarm companies to try and verify first -- to call the homeowner and see if they set their own alarm off," Young said. In a statement to News 5, alarm company ADT, one of the nation's largest, said, "When our customer monitoring center receives an alarm signal from a premise, we first contact the customer to make sure everything is alright. If we don't receive a response, we reach out to their back-up contacts. If we do not receive a response or are told to investigate, we contact local first responders."
If you end up setting off your own burglar alarm, it's your responsibility to communicate with your alarm company. "The most important thing is to get on that phone and cancel (the false burglar alarm) with your alarm company," Gage said. "Don't call the police department because we won't accept your cancel. Call the alarm company." If the alarm company cannot get in touch with the home or building owner, that's when police get involved. "If (the alarm companies) don't catch anybody on those first two calls, then they'll call us and we'll dispatch."
Below is data provided by Colorado Springs police regarding burglar alarm calls for 2011-12.