After nearly a year of preparation, Warner Robins has launched a program aimed at curbing false burglary alarms.
The program requires every security alarm system to be registered with the city through a third-party administrator by July 18. There is no charge to register, but there are penalties for false alarms.
The city has contracted with Maryland-based Public Safety Corp. to administer its CryWolf software for false alarm management.
“It’s in response to the burden from constantly and repetitively responding to false alarms,” said Warner Robins police Lt. Jeff McCommon.
Never miss a local story.
“If you get a burglary alarm, for example, it requires two officers to respond because you don’t know if it’s a true alarm or a false alarm,” McCommon said. “So that ties up two officers and their salaries. Now you multiply that times several times a night, times a month, times a year, it can be quite expensive when those officers can be doing other things, answering other calls.”
At the end of fiscal 2015, the city had responded to 3,423 false alarms at businesses and 2,855 false alarms at residences. The calls consumed the equivalent time of two full-time officers for a year, he said.
Hitting people in their wallets is an effective way of reducing those false alarms.
Under the fee schedule, consumers are not charged for the first and second false alarms. Fees steadily increase up to 10 false alarms.
At the 11th false alarm, police will not respond to an alarm without verification from the alarm company or owner that it was set off as a result of criminal activity, according to a city ordinance. The same holds true for those who are 60-days delinquent in fines.
“Regular 911 services will go on,” McCommon said. “Somebody reports a prowler, or they have a domestic or they have a theft or a medical emergency, they still get 911 and public safety. It’s just the alarm that they fall into a non-response for.”
Those who fail to register their alarm systems can expect to pay a $100 non-compliance fee for each alarm response as well as any applicable false alarm fee, McCommon said.
The city also may take other measures to ensure compliance — from civil penalties to possible revocation of licenses to actions to abate a nuisance, City Attorney Jim Elliott said in an email.
But those steps likely would be reserved for a chronic abuser, McCommon said.
The fees are imposed on a calendar year basis, which means everyone who isn’t 60 days delinquent in fees or fines gets a clean slate, McCommon said.
Also, annual registration from the date the alarm system is registered is required, and ownership of an alarm system does not transfer but requires a new registration, he said.
In addition, registration is required for each alarm system even if administered by the same security company. For example, a business owner is required to registered his business alarm separately from his residential alarm, he said.
For its services, Public Safety Corp. receives 34 percent of all revenue generated by fines, with the remaining 66 percent of revenue earmarked for city coffers.
“Our intent is not to make money but to gain compliance,” McCommon said.
Last July, city council enacted the ordinance that enables the imposition of fines and civil penalties for false alarms, and in November the mayor signed the contract with Public Safety Corp.
McCommon said it took some time to get everything set up to launch the system, including the development of a website, www.crywolfondemand.com/alarms/warnerrobinsga, for consumers.
The website, managed by Public Safety Corp., includes a registration process. Once registered, consumers may watch a training video to help them not generate false alarms.
If they watch the video, the city will waive the fee for a third false alarm, said Jennifer Parson, public information officer for Warner Robins police.
Registration may also be done by calling 855-905-0606, and registration forms are available at Warner Robins City Hall and at the Warner Robins Law Enforcement Center.
The website includes links to the ordinance, appeal guidelines, frequently asked questions and tips.
Jim Taylor of Warner Robins Building Supply Co., favors the program. The company’s warehouse on Armed Forces Boulevard is required to register its alarm system.
“Security is very important to us, but we also respect those that provide that security for us,” Taylor said. “And I happened to be at the council meeting when it was presented about them having to go and start doing something, some type of action because of the tremendous of amount of false alarms they get not only at the police department but also with the fire department.
“And every time these guys go out and make these calls, whether it’s a real call, whether it’s a false alarm, that’s still money,” he said.
Taylor finds it “refreshing to see that government takes responsibility for its expenditures.”
More than 280 agencies serving more than 500 cities, counties, and other municipalities throughout the United States and Canada use CryWolf, Jean Schommer, director of marketing for Public Safety Corp., wrote in an email.
Others in Georgia include Atlanta, Decatur, Dunwoody, Fayetteville, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek, McCommon said.
CryWolf fine schedule
First and second false alarm: No charge
Third false alarm: $50
Fourth false alarm: $75
Fifth false alarm: $100
Sixth false alarm: $125
Seventh false alarm: $150
Eighth false alarm: $200
Ninth false alarm: $250
10th false alarm: $300
Failure to register: $100
Source: Warner Robins city ordinance