- Paris Flash
- Real Estate
Paris has hundreds, maybe thousands, of burglary alarm systems – and that’s good, police chief Bob Hundley says.
But, Paris police officers are dispatched to respond to 2,000 or so alarms a year “and 95 to 98 percent turn out to be false alarms,” he said – and that’s bad.
“I’m expending police resources to the tune of around 1,200 man hours a year for really no good reason,” Hundley told the council Monday night. “I personally think I am wasting some of my officers’ time, that they could be doing something else.”
During a discussion that lasted for more than 30 minutes, several council members said they received a number of phone calls and/or e-mails from constituents who felt that Hundley’s proposed new alarm ordinance is too severe.
Hundley said the most false alarms had come from “three or four businesses,” which he did not name.
He said one business had 106 false alarms in one year, another had 51 false alarms in one year, and the third had 51 false alarms in one year.
A couple of representatives of companies that install alarm systems were present and addressed the council at Mayor AJ Hashmi’s invitation.
“I understand Bob’s problem, but … throwing a blanket over the whole situation for a few bad apples” is not the right approach, said Mike Boswell, owner of Electron Security Systems at 1332 Lamar Ave.
“I think the places that are causing the problems need to be addressed, and go from there,” Boswell said.
Zachary Blount, owner of Advance Alarm and Electronics at 1350 N. Main, agreed.
“Can we not try to to go to that small group of people and fix that problem? Instead of giving everybody in Paris the whole ‘Here’s what you get.’ If one little old lady has one false alarm, and one business has three, I don’t know why they have to get penalized,” Blount said.
James McNeal, owner of Precision Motors at 2675 N. Main, told the council that not all false alarms are really false alarms.
McNeal said he has a gated system to keep customers’ cars safe after hours from people “that want to break into your car and steal your radio and stuff.”
“I’ve got laser beams in my parking lot, and as soon as somebody walks across it, the alarm goes off, a light comes up and sirens go off, and the police are called,” McNeal said.
“All of my alarms are false alarms to y’all – to the police – but they’re not false alarms. People have actually tripped the alarm, and when it goes off they high-tail it out of there. I’ve lost no radios, my cars are not being bothered,” he said.
“I could go to a silent alarm and then they’re not going to be false alarms any more, but the amount of damage they’ll do in the three minutes it takes police to respond – to three cars in three minutes – is incredible. I would just ask for a little lenience on this,” McNeal said.
The police chief said an alarm ordinance has been on the books for several decades, but it proved to be “very unpopular” and the city quit trying to enforce it about 1986 or 1987.
Hundley proposed a new ordinance in which residences or businesses with alarms would be allowed six police responses to false alarms in any 12-month period without consequence, with a $75 fee assessed for each false alarms after that, until the total number of false alarm responses reaches 10.
Once 10 false alarms had occurred, the resident or business owner would be considered in violation of the alarm ordinance and taken to municipal court.
Hundley said he researched the alarm ordinances of other cities and found them more stringent than what he was proposing.
“I know the city gets hits from time to time that we’re not friendly to business, and this may seem like an unfriendly to business type ordinance,” Hundley said.
“There are some alarms we respond to that are actual attempts to break in, so I realize that these alarms are very important, but I’d like to do something to lower the amount of false alarms that we respond to,” Hundley said.
The mayor asked Hundley if he had talked to the three or four “frequent offenders,” and the chief said he had.
“One location said they had kicked it up to corporate, and corporate wouldn’t help them out. Another one, the one with 106 alarms in one year, said ‘We don’t know what’s wrong with our system,’ ” Hundley said.
Most of the alarms occur after normal business hours, Hundley said.
“Most of the time that somebody is there, we get a phone call canceling the alarm. It can be faulty equipment that’s not maintained. A lot of the time, businesses that have turnover, and they have people coming in who are new to opening up, or something like that. There are some very valid reasons why these false alarms take place,” the chief added.
Under the amended ordinance that Hundley offered, alarms that go off as a result of severe weather would be excused. Often, he said, if there’s trouble with an alarm system, it will go off several times in one day; those would be treated as a single false alarm.
Among the concerns expressed to individual council members were complaints that many of the false alarms are out of a company’s control — such as the Dallas Morning News being thrown against the front door, or youths congregating in front of an establishment and pushing against a door or rattling the door knob.
The council declined to adopt the proposed ordinance amendment Monday night and agreed instead to seek recommendations from a committee of business owners, one or two council members, someone from the police department, and representatives of alarm companies.
“We’ll try to form this committee … to provide some directions on how we should proceed,” Hashmi said.
He asked the alarm company owners to “participate with the committee, and come up with a suggestion. But, you know, be reasonable on both sides.”
The mayor said the council would like a recommendation from the committee sooner than later – “maybe in the next month or so.”
By CHARLES RICHARDS