At the February 19th Gillette City Council Meeting, an ordinance to provide new regulations for false burglary alarms had its first of three readings. The council voted 5-2 to approve the change on the first of three readings of the item that had been tabled to weeks earlier.
Council members Forrest Rothleutner and Kevin McGrath provided the two votes against the change. McGrath had requested at the last council meeting for the item to be tabled so he could research more information pertaining to the possible change. The proposed change deals with burglar alarms and does not apply to panic or robbery alarms.
At the introduction of the item on Monday, City Administrator Carter Napier went over the possible changes. Napier said the changes would emphasize the responsibility for false alarms is on the property owner. Individuals whose burglar alarms result in multiple false alarms a year would be the focus. Owners would be expected to properly maintain/repair alarm units that commonly generate false alarms or face administrative fines.
Late last month, Gillette Police Lieutenant Chuck Deaton said that the police department was interested in a change because of a recent spike in false alarms. In 2011 the police department responded to 1,170 burglary alarms. According to Deaton only two of those alarms were deemed legitimate. Deaton said the 1,168 false alarms last year compromised proactive police work.
"Most alarms, whether they are a residence or business, we send a minimum of two officers to those calls."---Deaton
Deaton said alarm calls can average about 30 minutes each call, and he feels the amount of time officers spend responding to false alarms could be better utilized. While addressing the council Tuesday, Napier agreed the effort to change the regulations for alarms would allow the practices and time spent by Gillette Police Officers to be more efficient and effective.
"We want to place the onus of maintaining the burglary alarms upon the property owners, so that our taxpayers' resources are not allocated to things that are largely not needed or unproductive."---Napier
Besides the requirement that the owners of burglar alarms properly maintain/fix alarms to ensure multiple false alarms are not produced from a single address, the ordinance also speaks to police response. If the owner of an alarm that consistently sends out a false alert refuses to fix the problem, or pay the fines that accrue, they will risk the possibility that local police will no longer respond to a burglar alarm at that address.
"If they don't pay the fine, or do anything to reconcile their alarm system, it also empowers the police department to not respond to burglar alarms at the subject property."---Napier
It was that part of the ordinance that Councilman McGrath and Rothleutner said they had concerns about, and caused them to be the two dissenting votes to the possible ordinance change. McGrath, who works for the Campbell County Sheriff's Office, said he felt that officers should need to respond to a burglar alarm even if they know it is not in working condition. He added he felt the determination that an alarm is indeed false needed to be made at the scene. Rothleutner said he agreed with McGrath.
City Councilwoman Louise Carter-King said she saw things differently. Carter-King said she felt if property owners accept personal responsibility for their property, than they would not have any problem.
"I think it is outrageous that we have let people get by this long, and let people do this, when they can fix it themselves. They will not be in jeopardy if they just fix their systems."---Carter-King
Police Chief Jim Hloucal said if the ordinance change passes after two more readings, he does not expect it to have an impact on the majority of burglar alarm owners; it's the addresses that have multiple false alarms a year, the department is hoping to remedy. Hloucal said of the 667 false alarms at businesses last year, 348 were from 1 of 33 businesses. Each of those 33 businesses also had 6 or more false alarms in a 12 monthly period. On the residential side, 33 residences accounted for 361 of the 502 false alarms and each of those 33 had 3 or more in a 12 month period.
The next reading of the proposed ordinance will be March 4th.