Now, the program that started out rewarding “good guys” will have to force those same homeowners to pay their registration fees without regard to how well they take care of their alarm systems.
On Tuesday, Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley received approval from Washoe County commissioners to reinstate a permanent yearly registration fee from alarm system owners that cannot be refunded.
Two years ago, the “good guys” were rewarded with refunds of their registration fees for producing no false alarms. But the program worked so well — reducing the number of false alarms by half — the sheriff can no longer afford to run it.
Implemented on Jan. 4, 2010, an incentive was set into motion that refunded alarm owners the yearly $24 program cost if the resident’s system reported no false alarms. For seniors, the cost is $12. The registration late fee is $25 by county ordinance, according to county liaison Sarah Tone.
From 2010, when there were 1,916 false alarms, to 2011, when there were only 1,073, the program began to lose money.
“As the number of false alarms decreases, false alarm fees do not generate sufficient income to sustain the program,” Haley said in his appeal to Washoe County Clerk Amy Harvey.
After Tuesday’s approval, two additional public readings are required before it becomes part of the county ordinance.
The fees associated with owning an alarm can be substantial if the alarm owner becomes irresponsible over time. Failure of the alarm user or his or her representative to show up when the alarm system goes off will be fines of $50, payable to the sheriff.
The alarm user is given a break if the alarm goes off falsely the first three times within 365 days. After that, the fourth alarm will cost a fine of $25. The fine for a fifth alarm is $50, the sixth is $75 and any subsequent false alarm within a year is $150 for each event.
If a security system has been revoked by the sheriff’s office, an administrative fee of $100 is assessed as part of a security alarm license reinstatement.
In September 2009, the sheriff’s office presented the alarm ordinance in an effort to reduce the number and impact of false alarms. It was based on other ordinances used throughout the nation, including ones used in Reno and Sparks. On Feb. 23, 2010, county commissioners amended the ordinance to reward alarm owners for not having any false alarms by waiving the $24 registration fee. It also allowed for a waiver or reduction if there was no change to the alarm user registration information. This was approved June 22, 2010.
There are some 6,000 registered alarm users in Washoe County, according to the sheriff’s office. The cost to administer the program is $84,000. Prior to the enactment of the ordinance, the county averaged 2,567 false alarms per year. That number has declined by nearly 1,500.
In Haley’s letter to the county clerk, he requests a fee schedule to be set forth in the newly revised ordinance. That fee schedule was not available for public review.
To learn more about the alarm ordinance, visit http://www.washoecounty.us/clerks/files/Ordinances/1450.pdf. To review Chapter 54 of the Alarm Registration and False Alarms County Code, visit http://www.washoecounty.us/clerks/files/pdfs/county_code/Chapter054.pdf.