Newport News police chief moves to reduce false alarm calls

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) – Newport News Police Chief Richard Myers is trying to reduce the number of false home and business security alarms his officers respond to by proposing a change in the city law.

The current ordinance includes a $50 penalty for each false alarm after three in a 90-day period. The chief’s plan would allow two free false alarms in a year, then the fines would go up to $100, $250, and $500, depending on how many times it happens.

“It’s not inconsistent with what every police department around the country is dealing with,” he said of the problem.

Myers is proposing a registration system with a one-time $25 fee for users, so that officers know which homes and businesses have alarms and who to contact when they go off.

Each alarm call requires two officers and takes an average of 20 minutes, he said. In both 2015 and 2016, there were more than 9,000 alarm dispatches and 85 percent percent of them were false alarms.

Jessica Seeley, CEO of King Alarm Company of Virginia, listed some of the common triggers.

“People forgetting to disarm their system before they walk in the house. New users that have never had a security system before… The other thing that is really, really notorious for making false alarms — when you arm your system, you have two options. You are either to arm it ‘stay’ or you’re to arm it ‘away,'” she said.

“If we’re able to, through this ordinance eliminate 40 to 50 percent of our false alarms or more, that’ll be the equivalent of getting two additional officers on the force, without hiring anybody additionally. That’s how many man hours are consumed,” Myers said.

The chief is also calling for a $10 fee to renew each year, and an alarm user awareness class.