Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

False Alarms Driving Cops Crazy, Costs Up

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

False Alarms Driving Cops Crazy, Costs Up

Article excerpt

Jacksonville police have visited Gene LeViner's truck sales and

service business more than 100 times in the past 18 months,

costing him $2,500.

LeViner said he appreciates the protection, but he's not happy

about paying the expense -- $25 for what police call false

burglar alarms. Police are also unhappy about wasting time

responding to false alarms, which go off daily in homes and

businesses citywide.

Police records show that about 85,000 false alarms in 1995 tied

up about 18,600 hours of police service. That equates to about

460 40-hour workweeks.

The cops say they are concerned Jacksonville is among the most

lenient Florida cities in punishing alarm violators, charging

$25 a trip after six free visits. To deter alarm failures and

abuse, police say they are planning to ask the city to change

the alarm ordinance by cutting the number of free trips in half

and increasing the violation fee.

LeViner, who upgraded his alarm system at Jacksonville Mack

Sales & Service last year to include sensitive lasers, said he

has no choice but to pay to protect his property. Burglars stole

$18,000 in tires and parts from the business at 1986 W. Beaver

St. last year.

Jacksonville Mack Sales & Service is the top violator for false

alarms in the city, according to police records.

"We're concerned about it because it's taking their [police]

time from somebody else and we have to write a check every time

they come out," said LeViner, who has added razor wire this year

to prevent burglaries. "But we've done everything we can. We're

in a bad neighborhood where people try to get in and set off the

alarms."

Attempted burglaries, which involved shaken fences, pried

windows and activated alarms, may be behind the majority of

calls to LeViner's business. Some alarms are also set off by

stormy weather.

But those two causes are the exceptions. At least 80 percent of

false alarms annually are caused by user error, said Officer Vic

Groner of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

People can cause alarms by using wrong codes, leaving doors or

windows unlocked or keeping something as simple as a balloon

floating in the home. Pets and rodents also can set off the

alarms, especially if motion detectors are used.

The largest paying violator is the Duval County School Board,

which paid out about $14,000 in the past two years for false

alarms. Car lots, churches, government buildings and homes also

top the lists.

Mike Herrington, an investigator with Duval's school system,

said that with 148 schools and other buildings, there are bound

to be problems. He said about a third of the false alarms are

due to user error, while the other reasons range from open

windows to rodents who set off motion detectors.

"We're constantly striving to improve those numbers,"

Herrington said. "With the limited amount of manpower and

resources we have, we need to make sure our people don't have to

respond to false alarms. The police have the same concern."

People should only buy alarm systems from reputable companies

to avoid getting a faulty alarm, and the owner should learn to

use the alarm properly, said Jude Burke, executive director of

the Alarm Association of Florida.

Burke said some Florida counties, such as Palm Beach, have cut

down on false alarms by instituting alarm education programs and

increased fines and other penalties for violators. …

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