During a presentation to the Bellevue City Council on Sept. 8, Bellevue Police Chief Steven Mylett said that despite some confusion and disapproval from residents, the False Alarm Management Program has been generally well-received.
“As with any new program, a few hiccups occurred,” said Chief Mylett, citing the roughly 50 calls the department received from citizens regarding the ordinance. “City staff responded to every complaint, and in the end, most citizens expressed appreciation and gratitude to staff for their quick responses and professionalism.”
The department is in the midst of implementing the false alarm ordinance, which requires alarm owners to pay an annual $25 registration fee and a $100 fine for a false alarm.
In 2014, the police responded to 3,871 false alarms out of a total 4,040 residential calls, and Bellevue Deputy Police Chief Mike Johnson stated that year that about 98 percent of burglary alarms were either caused by faulty electronics or the alarm being set off accidentally.
The police are hoping to reduce false alarms by 40 to 80 percent with this ordinance.
Some residents have voiced disapproval of the fact that residents must pay to register their systems each year, as well as for false alarms.
Under the ordinance adopted by the council in December 2014, an alarm awareness class may be taken to avoid the first fine. Panic, silent, robbery, burglary and duress false alarm calls with result in a $200 fine.
The biennial budget assumes false alarm revenue of $75,000 this year, and $70,000 in 2016, estimated to go down due to alarm owners taking corrective actions. Because the program can’t be implemented until the last quarter of the year, 2015 revenue will fall short of its budgetary projection.
As the Reporter previously reported, the city council signed a four-year contract with AOT Public Safety Corporation in May to manage Bellevue’s false alarm program.
The city will receive 71 percent of the first $75,000 in revenue from fines, alarm registrations and renewals in the first and second years of the program, and 81 percent after that. The remaining percentage goes to PSC for management of the program, using its proprietary CryWolf software. PSC is based in Waldorf, Md.
Bellevue Police estimate that about $125,000 is spent each year on false alarm calls, taking into consideration staffing and response time.
“This is a rough estimate based on the average amount of time it takes to respond to and clear an alarm call,” said Bellevue Police Officer Amanda Jensen. Calculating the actual cost would be too complex and time consuming, she added, so the department chose a ballpark number.
After the ordinance was first approved by the city council, the department reportedly fielded many phone calls from confused or disgruntled residents.
“I feel that the enactment of this ordinance is an unfair penalty on the citizens of Bellevue who have taken the responsible steps to protect their homes from burglary, invasion, fire, etc.,” David G. Scott wrote in a Letter to the Editor last month. “This program has the feeling of a collection agency that we are paying to benefit our city government.”
Police said in a statement that, to date, 2,828 residents and businesses have registered their alarms with the program. Of those registered, less than two percent have expressed displeasure with the new process, though many have been receptive to the goal of the program and have been willing to provide feedback in order to make improvements, according to the statement.
The police are continuing to implement the ordinance and sign up applicable residents and businesses. They will be holding two Q&A sessions at City Hall with representatives from CryWolf on Sept. 23 from 6-8 p.m. and Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. to noon.