False Alarms Cost Big Bucks

Tallahassee police responded to more than 12,000 burglar, panic and hold up alarms last year, and more than 96 percent of them were false alarms.

SGT Mark Dent has been patrolling the streets of Tallahassee for 27 years, and false alarms are a part of nearly every shift.

SGT Dent says, "You've been there six, seven, eight, 10 times, and that's not unusual for some of our repeats, and the officers get complacent and there you have an officer safety issue if it does turn out to be the real one."

Of the 12,000 alarms TPD responded to last year, 96 to 98 percent of them turned out to be false alarms. TPD estimates that costs the department 11,000 man hours and more than a quarter million dollars for the year.

TPD is now sitting down with security companies to try to hash out some solutions. Most agree the city's “three strikes then fined” policy isn't working.

Walt McNeil, Tallahassee Police Chief, says, "Bottom line is we need to reduce the false alarms, and I think there is a magnitude of things we need to put in place to move us towards that."

Police in some cities have stopped responding to alarms altogether. The chief says that's not an option here, but this group is debating other ideas including charging homeowners and businesses permitting and registration fees to try to offset the cost of policing.

This group met for the first time Friday and will be trying to come up with a new false alarm ordinance to present to the Tallahassee City Commission by September.