Police want someone to manage false alarms

The Bellevue Police Department will need to do more to convince city councilmembers it needs a vendor contract for a false alarm management program that would penalize business owners and residents whose faulty alarm systems have been distracting officers from real calls over the past several years.

Deputy Police Chief Mike Johnson proposed the program to City Council on March 17, stating about 98 percent of burglary alarms Bellevue officers respond to as being faulty electronics or accidentally set off. That has meant an annual loss of about 1,700 hours of police time that could have been applied to other calls, he said.

Doing a false alarm management program in-house, where the police department would process alarm system registrations by businesses and residents, provide monitoring and billing for fines, is not a responsibility the BPD wants to assume, said Johnson. It would take two new full-time employees and additional training, he said, and the department is already encumbered with a rise in residential burglaries and vehicle prowls around the city.

The police department proposes contracting with a vendor for a web-based program and paying for the service using alarm system registration from businesses and residents whose systems are actively monitored. Johnson said revenue from registration is estimated at $65,000 annually — after vendor costs — and about $80,000 to $100,000 could be gained in fines each year. Offenders would be able to take an online course to have their first fine waived.

"Kind of like traffic school for your first ticket," Johnson said.

Lt. Lisa Patriacelli said there is no incentive for alarm owners to update their information, which sometimes makes finding them difficult after an alarm goes off. There is also no incentive for them to fix their faulty systems. The management program should incentive better management of alarms and free up officers for other responses.

Councilmember Jennifer Robertson said she wants to know what benefit the program would have for alarm owners.

"What's in it for them, other than a fee and paperwork?" she said.

Johnson said once false alarm issues are corrected through an approved program, businesses and residents would theoretically be provided with better responses to true alarm calls.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Wallace said he'd like to see proposals from prospective vendors to get a better idea about what the cost could be for service and how that would translate into registration fees and fines.


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