In an effort to reduce false alarms, the city of Asheville, NC has revised existing policies regarding security systems. Central station operators responding to alarms in Asheville must now use Enhanced Call Verification (ECV) before dispatching. New fines and fees have also been introduced.
Asheville has had an alarm ordinance in-place since at least 2002. The newly revised ordinance was passed unanimously by the Asheville City Council during a recent meeting on June 22. No comment was made by the council in response to the unanimous passing of the revised ordinance. However, some local police representatives at the meeting spoke out in favor of the revised ordinance. For a complete look at the revised policies, you may review this staff report uploaded by the city of Asheville.
As part of the revised policies, the use of ECV is now required before a central station operator is permitted to dispatch the authorities in response to an alarm. This means that an operator must make a minimum of two (2) attempts to contact the end-user for alarm verification purposes before they can request that local Asheville authorities visit the scene. The use of ECV is not required for fire alarms or user-triggered panic alarms. It is also not mandated in cases where it has already been confirmed that a crime has been committed.
According to representatives of the Asheville Police Department (APD), the use of ECV reduces false responses by 40%. A report produced by the APD states that local Asheville authorities responded to more than 15,600 burglar alarms from January 2018 to May 2021. Of these, burglar alarms, 97% of them were concluded to be false. This equates to 15,132 false alarms. While those figures might seem very high at first glance, the reality is that many other jurisdictions also report similar issues. One example can be seen in Panama City, FL.
In addition to mandating the use of ECV, the city of Asheville has also introduced new fines and fees in relation to false alarms and the general use of alarm systems. Anyone who wants to legally operate an alarm system in the city must obtain a permit, at a cost of $25. This permit must then be renewed annually, at a cost of $10 per renewal.
The revised ordinance also carried over existing fines and penalties in relation to the misuse of alarm systems. Any registered user is basically given a warning for their first two (2) false alarms in a calendar. But any third or subsequent false alarm is deemed a "public nuisance", and a user will be charged fines of $50 for their third, fourth, and fifth false alarms within that time period. From there, the sixth and seventh false alarms will result in $100 fines, the eighth and ninth false alarms will result in $250 fines, and any tenth and subsequent false alarms in a single calendar year will result in $500 fines.
In situations where a user is found to be more than thirty (30) days late in paying a fee or fine will be fine an additional $25 as a late fee. A user may formally appeal any fine, though this will result in an "appeal hearing fee" of $50. This fee will be reimbursed in the event that the appeal is upheld. All appeals must be submitted in writing and filed in the police chief's office within ten (10) days of a fine being issued.
Furthermore, the city may elect to formally suspend all emergency service responses to any user responsible for more than ten (10) false alarms in a calendar year, as well as any user who is more than ninety (90) days behind on any alarm-related fee or fine. In order to have services reinstated, a user must have their alarm system formally inspected, receive training on the use of alarm system, complete an online alarm awareness class and test, and pay all outstanding fees and fines, plus a reinstatement fee of $50.
Overall, it's easy to understand why the Asheville City Council would feel compelled to toughen their policies against alarm systems. When roughly 97% of alarm responses are deemed to be the result of unnecessary false alarms, it makes sense to feel a bit frustrated. Perhaps even more unfortunate is the fact that most jurisdictions throughout the United States likely experience similar problems and issues in regards to false alarms.
However, policies like these often make it more difficult for responsible, law-obeying citizens to obtain and operate security systems. The truth is that the vast majority of security system users do not cause excessive false alarms. It's usually a very small minority of system users who ruin it for everyone else. At Alarm Grid, we believe that the best solution is to train alarm system users so that they can operate their equipment responsibly and not add to a growing problem. We do our part by training our monitored customers in the responsible operation of security systems and false alarm prevention. We strongly encourage every security system user to review our guidelines for preventing false alarms. Following those tips will go a long way towards easing the burden placed on police forces and discouraging local jurisdictions from taking the matter into their own hands by enacting policies like this one in Asheville, NC.
Fortunately, the policies in Asheville seem to be reasonable for the most part. Giving users warnings for the first two (2) false alarms caused in a year is appreciated. Mistakes happen, and usually the embarrassment of causing even just one (1) false alarm is enough to make a user extra cautious moving forward. On the other end of the spectrum, the fines for causing excessive false alarms - particularly the $500 fine for every tenth and subsequent alarm beyond that - are some of the most extreme that we have ever seen. But that being said, we totally understand the reasoning here. A user who is causing that many false alarms in a one-year period is clearly not operating their system in a responsible manner. Punishing such end-users for this reckless and careless behavior can certainly be argued as fair. Also, while we're never fans of charging users fees for basic system registration, the $25 initial fee and $10 annual renewal fee isn't worth getting upset over.
What we would like to see as part of any alarm ordinance policy enacted by Asheville, NC, or any other jurisdiction for that matter, is some protection against monitoring companies like Alarm Grid. The formal staff report put out by Asheville outlines the responsibilities and duties expected of alarm companies, and it doesn't mention fining them in any way. But on that same note it doesn't mention any specific protections for monitoring providers. We have seen some states enact specific laws that prevent local jurisdictions from levying fines and fees against monitoring companies. For example, Tennessee signed such a law in 2019, Iowa started enforcing one last year, and Georgia's new policy from earlier this year put an end to a controversial situation in Sandy Springs, GA, where alarm companies were being fined by the city.
Do you have any thoughts on the revised alarm policy in Asheville, NC? Does your city have any similar provisions put in place. Would such provisions discourage you from getting your home or business monitored. Share your thoughts in a comment down below. We would love to hear what you have to say. And stay tuned to the Alarm Grid Blog for more security news and updates coming soon!