Tulsa's new alarm ordinance goes into effect February 1. Citizens will no longer receive fines or risk going to jail for repeated false alarms. However, police will not respond to residences with repeated false alarms.
Guardian Security has around 8,000 customers with home alarms. Whenever an alarm sounds, dispatchers telephone the customer to make sure everything's okay. Out of the 1,500 alarm calls that come in to Guardian every day, about 10 of those calls are responding to an actual problem. Once Guardian has determined that there is a problem, police are called.
Most false alarms are caused by customer errors. "In some cases, it's just a procedure where the owner doesn't have enough time to get out of the house,â€ said Guardian Security vice president Mike Hankins. â€œOr there's a new employee or a new person living in the house. We can quickly correct the problem right there."
A lot of alarm companies donâ€™t check out the call, they just notify the police. This means officers can spend a lot of time chasing down false alarms. "We had about 45,000 alarm calls last year and two per cent of them or about 900 were good," explained Tulsa Police Department captain Paul Williams.
The current city law was supposed to correct the false alarm problem. Homeowners with an alarm system were supposed to purchase an alarm permit for $20. After a few false calls, the owner paid a fine. Many homeowners did not get the permit and many more haven't paid their fine.
The new law gives homeowners a choice: Pay $20 a year for the permit and police will respond to an alarm at your residence. Or don't pay for the permit and police will not come when your alarm sounds. Homeowners instead will have to check out the problem themselves or hire a private security firm. If a crime has been committed, call the police and they will then investigate. "Eliminating false alarms means that we're talking about the people who don't learn their system or refuse to pay to get it fixed or who have a door swinging in the wind,â€ Hankins explained. â€œThis new law will keep police from wasting their time running after the same troublesome alarm problems over and over again."
If the homeowner purchases the permit and still has repeated false alarms, police will not continue to respond until certain criteria are met. The owner must take an alarm class and they must get their equipment inspected. "It makes your alarm more valuable,â€ Hankins said. â€œThere are more police officers who are able to respond.â€
Tulsa police say they will continue to respond to all panic alarms. If you have questions about the new ordnance, call 596-7633.