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False alarms trigger concern

Central Point police are considering changes in rules for businesses

CENTRAL POINT ' Police officials weary of a deluge of false burglar alarms are considering changes in city rules that would make lax attitudes more expensive for businesses.

Central Point police Lt. Tony McPherson said officers were dispatched to 75 percent more false alarms in 2002 compared to the year before.

Aside from wasting police time ' two police officers must respond to triggered alarms for safety reasons ' McPherson said officers have no way to discern whether a clerk or the wind triggered the alarm or an armed robbery was taking place.

It is important to know that when officers respond to an alarm, they are responding to a serious felony call, anticipating the possibility of a confrontation with a subject or subjects who have broken into a business or residence, McPherson said. These individuals do not want to be caught and are likely to respond aggressively to the police presence.

virtue of the emergency response and the necessary tactics, alarms do put the officers and citizens at risk.

During the 2001 calendar year, Central Point police responded to 110 false alarm calls. In 2002, the number rose to 192. The current city ordinance allows businesses one false alarm per calendar year at no cost.

Consecutive false alarms start with a cost of &

36;10. A second false alarm within three months results in a &

36;25 fine; a third within six months, &

36;50; a fourth response within one year, &


Businesses with additional false alarms in the same calendar year continue accumulating &

36;100 fines.

McPherson said changes to the ordinance were still under discussion but that eventual changes could increase the fines, put a limit on the number of false alarms permitted each year and add provisions for appeals.

In Medford, businesses are also allowed one freebie, followed by consecutive fines for the second, third and fourth offense of &

36;15, &

36;50 and &

36;100, respectively.

A fifth false alarm incurs no charge but a business owner's alarm permit can then be suspended. If the suspension is appealed and denied, a fine of &

36;1,000 is required for the permit's reinstatement.

Medford Police Department community service officer Julie Moran said Medford officers also are too frequently dispatched for false alarms.

An ordinance change in September 1995 seemed to curb the problem somewhat, but Moran said paperwork from false alarms still takes up several days each month.

From May 2002-May 2003, 923 of the 1,564 alarms answered by Medford police were false ' 59 percent.

It's frustrating, said Moran, because usually the problem is due to alarms being oversensitive. Business owners could avoid the problem altogether by having their alarm companies readjust the sensors.

In Ashland, false alarms have actually decreased in recent years, one spokesperson said. No statistics were immediately available but business owners are permitted one free false alarm followed by fines of &

36;25 and up.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Department does not charge for false alarms and had no statistics readily available on the number of false alarms last year.

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com