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December  18

Alarming News

First reported in the Montclair Times, then picked up today by the Star Ledger, news that Montclair is just not going to take it any more. Residents and businesses with alarms that go off willy nilly will eventually have to pay for their tempermental security system's inadequacies. The first false alarm will be "on the house"...

Back in Montclair, the price structure is similar, with the first false alarm -- whether it's burglar or fire -- being "complimentary," as Police Chief David Sabagh calls it. Beyond that, Sabagh said, the police are proposing a new sliding scale of fees, with the second false call costing $50, the third, $100, and four or more, $200 a pop.

That could ring up a lot of cash, particularly if applied to a public entity characterized as the town's biggest offender: Montclair High School.

Deputy Police Chief Perry Mayers tallied 95 false calls -- all burglar alarms -- this year at the home of the Mounties, something that could conceivably result in $18,550 in fines.

Wouldn't it be nice if homeowners could then fine the companies who install alarms that are way too sensitive to begin with? Or you can do what a friend does -- place alarm signs/sticker along the perimeter of your home and forgo the actual alarm system altogether.

December 18, 2005 in Buzz | Permalink


I can't help wondering what they're going to consider a false alarm. Ours, for instance has vibration sensors. So a bad guy rattling the windows sets it off. So if the bad guy starts messing with a door or window sets off the alarm and then runs away...and the police come, but my house isn't trashed or my possessions aren't missing...it's a false alarm?

What's going to be the criteria? A broken window? Missing belongings? It sure sounds like if the alarm is doing it's job none of that will happen.

I get that if the police are investigating false alarms, they aren't attending to there very real business. I just don't know how they are going to tell the false alarms from the real ones...short of finding damage.

Posted by: Dan Epstein | Dec 18, 2005 2:00:32 PM

As I understand it, the plan is to hire a firm to administer a series of escalated fines to alarm owners whose alarms go off falsely.

I know I'm picky, but why the constant adverserial nature of the conversation between the town and its residents? Do they think alarm owners are doing this on purpose Do they think we enjoy driving our neighbors nuts? Don't they think we're embarassed?

Instead of fining us, perhaps they could license alarm installers in Montclair so those fly-by-night "free alarm" installers have to meet a certain level of competence?

Oh, and by the way? The chief law-breaker? The schools. Alvarez says it's the first time he's heard about it. Wouldn't it have been common courteousy to contact the schools and try and fix things before going public?

And where did they get this idea, which will cost us $80,000 per year to administer? Ummmm, er.... Rahway. Hmmmm haven't I heard that town name before?


Posted by: cary | Dec 18, 2005 4:25:01 PM

When I lived in Texas I put up ADT stickers and signs everywhere. I got ripped off by an illiterate burglar. Most places give you one (or more) strikes, then the fines kick in.

And here is a good question: how many times have you ever seen police respond to an alarm? I have heard house and store alarms go off many times with no response, except those that are wired to the phone system and the alarm company (if they are awake) calls the cops. If those are false alarms, the alarm company should be footing the bill for the fines.

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian | Dec 18, 2005 6:07:51 PM

Per the Montclair Times article:
"As part of the proposed contract, the township would assign a part-time false-alarm coordinator who would spend several hours each month interacting with the hired company, but there will be no other services or facilities provided by Montclair as part of the proposed agreement."

Sounds like a good township job- will it have a township car assigned that can be driven 24/7?

Posted by: badd_patti | Dec 18, 2005 10:48:22 PM

Dan Epstein makes a very valid point: what constitutes a false alarm? I too have sensors of every conceivable type. My alarm went off once and we found a window in the bathroom lowered about two inches. Did it fall? Or did someone pull it down and disappear when the alarm went off

And where the heck did they get this $240,000 income to the town (before taking into account the $80,000 payment to the company for their services, and before the cost of the "part time" town employee). Multiply the numbers folks, and tell us where the $240K is going to come from. Are these the same folks who told us that EZPass was going to pay for itself based on the fines, only to have the taxpayers pick up a $500 MM bill?

Stick to chasing goose poop (oh, wait, that idea didn't work either).


Posted by: cary | Dec 18, 2005 11:21:21 PM

False Alarms are easy to establish as well as keep track of.

A perfect example are the codes being entered incorrectly by cleaning crews, as well as, new employees, or the homeowner who constantly forgets that they turned it on and forgets to notify other family members.

The repose by law enforcement is usually fast and appropriate but dangerous and can be extremely hazardous (unecessarily) if it is a false one.

However, a creation of a new job to be responsible to establish them and keep track? I'll gladly take that job.

Where do I send in my resume?

Posted by: cstarling | Dec 19, 2005 6:45:54 AM

Most alarms are connected to an alarm company. When the house alarm goes off, the company calls, asks for a password, and asks if everything is o.k. That should take care of the forgetful family member.

If someone without an alarm hears a noise in the driveway, he or she can call the police. If they come and there is no one there, is that a false alarm?

I agree that if the schools have an inordinate number of false alarms, we should work on that problem, not pick another way to take away services.

Posted by: agath | Dec 19, 2005 9:13:07 AM

This is a common problem in many cities, and a variety of more creative solutions have been adopted. See the problem-solving guide "False burglar alarms" sponsored by the Office of Community-oriented Policing Services in the US Department of Justice:


Should be required reading for our public officials before trying to extract even more user fees from the highly taxed users of Montclair.

Posted by: Mike M. | Dec 19, 2005 9:51:20 AM

It would seem to me that a citation for repeated false alarms would be in order. But lets not go too far. We can not make alarm citations a profit center for the local police department. The goal is to cut down on false alarms so the police can respond to alarms where crimes are actually taking place.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Dec 19, 2005 10:47:17 AM

When I lived in Montclair, I lived across the street from a now-defunct beauty shop whose alarm would go off CONSTANTLY for no reason, but ALWAYS in the middle of the night, waking up the whole neighborhood. The lazy ass owner took his good old time getting there to shut it off, too. It used up valuable police time, too. In such a case as this one, I applaud fines for repeat offenders.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Dec 19, 2005 11:00:35 AM

Its a real nuisance. Car alarms too. I'm guess there are existing laws to take care of this.

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