Washington city may begin charging for false alarms

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

MERCER ISLAND CITY, Wash.—Police in this city near Seattle have responded to an average of 858 false alarms annually over the past three years, with about 300 believed to be repeat offenders, according to a report from the Mercer Island Reporter, a newspaper based here.

Those numbers have prompted the city council to consider an ordinance that would update its penalties and appeals process, according to the report.

Enacted in 1999, the city’s code has not been amended in many years, according to the article. In March, a member of the police department said most of the alarms were caused by user error, often a staff member or family member unfamiliar with the systems.

The article noted that each call costs the city $35, bringing the city’s annual cost to an estimate $41,000.

The new revised ordinance will allow residents a “free pass” on a first false alarm, according to the report. Repeat offenders will be charged $50 for each subsequent false alarm, the article said. Revisions will also “clarify definitions, update the penalty schedule from six months to a year-long cycle, and delete obsolete terms from the ordinance,” the report noted.