Beginning New Year’s Day, security companies will have to start paying fines to the city of Brookhaven for repeated false alarms rather than their customers. The measure is intended to reduce the thousands of false alarms police respond to in a year, eating up resources and wasting taxpayer money, according to city officials.
The new restrictions on alarm companies follows the lead of Sandy Springs, which implemented a similar ordinance that targets security companies and not homeowners and businesses. A bitter battle broke out last year between Sandy Springs and the security industry, which challenged the ordinance in federal court.
In Brookhaven, security companies are receiving warnings starting Jan. 1 for the first two false alarms reported, and will have to start paying $125 for a third offense and then $250 for the fourth and successive offenses.
Alarm companies will also be fined for other violations, including $250 for not verifying if an alarm is truly signaling an intrusion, $250 for not registering and providing a list of all alarms in operation in the city, and $100 for not notifying the city before installing a security alarm.
The Brookhaven City Council voted in 2017 to issue warnings to security companies and then make them pay increasing fines for frequent false alarms. Between 2016 and 2017, police responded to nearly 4,000 false alarms – more than 98 percent of total alarm calls — costing taxpayers close to $195,000, according to Police Chief Gary Yandura.
The false alarm ordinance also requires security companies to obtain a permit to operate in the city and to register their customers’ information with the city.
The city’s false alarm ordinance went into effect Jan. 1, 2018, but city officials later decided not to implement monetary fines until Sept. 1.
But the city of Sandy Springs got hit with a federal lawsuit in March by Georgia Electronic Life Safety & System Association and two Georgia alarm companies, which claimed the Sandy Springs ordinance violates their constitutional right to due process.
Brookhaven officials, fearful of being dragged into the Sandy Springs lawsuit, voted in August to again delay fining security companies until December to wait for a possible ruling.
False alarms did not slow in Brookhaven throughout 2018, Yandura told the City Council at its Dec. 11 meeting, and the council agreed the city should start issuing fines and fully implement the 2017 ordinance. The city chose to begin doing so on Jan. 1, 2019.
On Dec. 12, the federal lawsuit against Sandy Springs was dismissed. An appeal is likely, according to a spokesperson for the plaintiffs.
Alarms are considered false when they come from devices that use automatic systems or call centers to contact 911 about a fire or crime emergency that turns out to be nonexistent. False alarms are a perennial and significant problem in the industry, especially because residents or business owners may accidentally trigger their own alarms in a variety of ways. The problem is common enough that a private company created a program – called “CryWolf” – to help cities register and track false alarms, a service that Sandy Springs and Brookhaven use.