Public safety officials in Sandy Springs, Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Atlanta have struggled with how to reduce the thousands of false alarms the cities receive.
Of those cities, all but Brookhaven rely on a third-party partnership with a company called CryWolf, which helps cities register systems, track false alarms and collect fines, and Brookhaven may soon partner with CryWolf, the city said.
Fully comparing false alarms between cities is difficult because Atlanta and Sandy Springs have their own fire departments, while Brookhaven and Dunwoody do not. However, all four cities have police departments, and false police alarms are the bulk of the problem.
When the partnerships with CryWolf were created in 2012, Atlanta, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs took the approach of targeting customers with false-alarms fines. Sandy Springs is now trying a new tactic to try to reduce false alarms. Sandy Springs City Council passed a law in July that puts security companies that install and service alarms on the hook for false-alarm fines.
Before partnering with CryWolf, Sandy Springs recorded about 12,000 false alarms a year. In the following five years, that number has declined slight to over 10,000 in 2016. Of those, 9,292 were police alarms, making up about 97 percent of the total false alarms. That wasn’t enough improvement, city officials said at the July 18 City Council meeting, so now the city will try fining security companies instead of their customers.
Unlike Sandy Springs, Atlanta has been satisfied with the results produced by charging customers the fines, said Officer Stephanie Brown of the public affairs department at the Atlanta Police Department.
Before the CryWolf partnership was established, the Atlanta Police Department responded to more than 65,000 alarm calls with a 95 percent false alarm rate, 6 percent of the total 911 calls dispatched. Brown said. In 2016, the false alarms calls decreased to 28,560, Brown said.
“When the partnership with CryWolf went into effect in 2013, our goal was to reduce the amount of false alarms to allow officers to respond to more pressing calls,” Brown said. “The number of officers responding to calls has dramatically decreased, allowing officers to be available for other calls.”
More false alarms often occur in Buckhead’s police zone, Zone 2, than other police zone because the zone is larger and has more registered accounts than any other zone, Brown said.
Brown said public safety officials in Atlanta have no plans to alter the city’s relationship with CryWolf and will work on ways to continue reducing false alarm calls. “Our goal is to continue working with CryWolf to find ways to reduce the number of false alarms even further,” she said.
Dunwoody also has a partnership with CryWolf, and the Dunwoody Police Department from July 2016 to 2017 responded to 2,243 false alarm calls, 99.3 percent of the total alarms responded to.
Brookhaven officials are considering a partnership with a third-party collector such as CryWolf, city Communications Director Burke Brennan said.
“We do not have any partnerships with a third party to collect false alarm fees at this time, but it is a known issue in Brookhaven and the police department is currently evaluating programs such as CryWolf with the intent to make a recommendations to City Council this fall,” Brennan said in an email.
From July 2016 to 2017, the Brookhaven Police Department responded to 3,809 false alarms calls, 98.3 percent of the total alarm calls.