False alarms for Sylvania Township police could soon cost property owners money if trustees approve a proposal from Chief Joe Valvano.
A recent change in state law allows for an increase in fines for false alarms, the chief said. He's developing a way to monitor them and to go after the property owners where they occur.
False alarms have increased over the years. Last year Sylvania Township police had 2,600 alarms and only 19 resulted in a report of necessary police activity.
A national survey, he said, estimates that a false alarm takes about 20 minutes of a police officer's time.
When the alarm indicates that there is a robbery in progress, two cars respond with lights on and sirens blaring.
Not only is it a waste of time if the alarm is unnecessary, but anytime emergency crews are responding in that situation, there is an increased danger to the public.
Chief Valvano said the township has a regulation that levies a fine of $25 for false alarms, but it's not being enforced.
The fine amount didn't seem to reduce false alarms, and at that rate, it cost more to administer the program than it brought in, he said.
The new fine structure would allow a property to have three false alarms without penalty.
The fourth false alarm would result in a fine of $50, the next $100, and $150 for all subsequent false alarms in that year.
"People get complacent when there are no sanctions,'' the chief said, adding that the more substantial fines should result in more care by people when they are setting or otherwise operating their alarm systems.
Toledo has a similar law that was reconfigured in 2003. It provides a cap of $250 for 12 or more false alarms. It does not affect false fire alarms, which are answered with a warning on the first one. Subsequent false fire alarms have a fixed fine of $100 per incident in Toledo.
Although the Sylvania Township department is still forming an internal policy, Chief Valvano said he estimates it will take an officer five to seven hours a week to administer the program.
The department won't penalize people if alarms go off due to nearby lightning strikes or other natural events.
Without taking the steps now, he said, false alarms are likely to continue increasing, particularly because the township is still growing.
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