Reversal of Avondale ordinance possible

Industry advocates overturning ordinance fining alarm companies
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

AVONDALE, Ariz.—A city provision to shift the fines assessed for false alarms from consumers to alarm companies could soon be rescinded due to concerns about the measure’s constitutionality.

Avondale’s false alarm ordinance was amended in January to include the provision, with the city outsourcing enforcement to CryWolf False Alarm Reduction Solutions of Waldorf, Md. A meeting in March between city officials and representatives of SIAC and the Arizona Alarm Association, who had expressed concern about the legality of shifting the fines, failed to change the city’s position.

The outcome disappointed industry officials, who vowed to continue the fight.

“They can’t fine the industry for users’ false alarms,” Jon Sargent, industry/law enforcement liaison for SIAC, told Security Systems News. “In every other city we work in, the third party bills and collects the fees from the users.”

Maria Malice, president of AzAA, said industry officials then retained an attorney, who sent a letter to Avondale outlining how the provision violated both state and federal law. After months of discussion with the city attorney, city manager and chief of police about revising the ordinance, Malice said the three officials will recommend to the City Council that the provision be dropped.

“They’ve all come to this, that’s what they’re taking to the council,” she said.

Malice said the recommendation will be discussed at a work session and head for a final vote in early December. Andrew McGuire, Avondale city attorney, did not return calls for comment.

Stan Martin, executive director for SIAC, said the city didn’t levy any fines on alarm companies after the provision was adopted due to concerns raised in the industry attorney’s letter.

“We got an agreement from the city attorney several months ago that they would not enforce the fines. As long as they didn’t, no legal action was going to be taken against the city,” he said.

The proposed ordinance revision is just one of many being considered by cities in Arizona as they look for ways to reduce the number of emergency dispatches. Malice said AzAA is working with Peoria and Tuscon on revising their regulations, and a work session is coming up next week with officials in Mesa.

“They’re all trying to clean up their ordinances and changing to ECV to lower their false alarms,” she said.