A new ordinance was passed in Greenwood that would try to control the number of false alarms police officers respond to.
Since 1998, officers have responded to more than 34,000 false alarms and only 168 actual alarms. This year alone, officers have responded to more than 600 false alarms and 3 actual alarms.
“We go to every alarm even though it’s the 5th one that weekend. We still have to respond every time,” Greenwood Police Asst. Chief, Matthew Fillenwarth, said.
The new ordinance was approved last night. The mayor is expected to sign the ordinance. It would become effective immediately. The new ordinance states businesses and people could get fined $50 on the third time -within a calendar year- that officers respond to a false alarm at your business or home.
Fillenwarth said businesses typically have the most false alarms.
“As a taxpayer, you know, you don’t want your police officers wasting their time,” Fillenwarth said.
Fillenwarth said their department pushed to get the ordinance because resources were being wasted.
“You can go and look at our stats and see there (are) just certain businesses that (are) chronic (offenders), you know. That’s what we’re trying to cut down on,” Fillenwarth said.
Fillenwarth said it costs roughly $100 thousand a year for officers to respond to a false alarm call when that money could be used elsewhere. He said like paying those officers to investigate other cases.
“You want those officers out there available for what (are) true emergency calls and this is just a drain on the whole system,” Fillenwarth said.
The money collected from the fines would go into a fund that would pay for safety equipment and training.
Lindo Mexico is a restaurant in Greenwood. This year alone, officers have responded to 16 false alarms.
“For us, its just been a mystery. It’s like a ghost. We really don’t know what it is,” Juan Bravo said.
Bravo is a manager at Lindo Mexico. He said their plan to get it under control, especially knowing there could be a fine attached.
“Sometimes we get false alarms close to the winter just because of a trigger that has to do with the heat and the cold air. (It collides) and it just triggers the alarm,” Bravo said.
Lindo Mexico isn’t the only business with a high volume of false alarms. Fillenwarth said Best Buy (off U.S. 31) had 12 false alarms this year. Ashley Furniture (off U.S. 31) had 9 and Home Depot (off 135) had 8.
“That’s just proof that it’s not us. It’s happening to a lot of people. Maybe there needs to be better equipment to install so that (it) doesn’t happen,” Bravo said.
Fillenwarth said their department compiled a list of business that have had 3 or more than 3 false alarms. Those businesses should receive a letter from the police department by the end of the week, warning them about the new ordinance and the fee they could face. Fillenwarth said they will work with businesses and people who violate the ordinance.
The new ordinance includes faulty and false alarms the fire department responds to. The fire department has had a policy in place since the early 90’s, which cracks down on false alarms. But, this new ordinance updates and clarifies the language. Just like police false alarms, people could get fined after the second offense. In this case, it is per apparatus. The money collected, from false alarms that the fire department responds to, will go into a fire safety fund. It is used for fire prevention education in the community.