Guest Column: New Alarm Ordinance

David B. Shoar, St. Johns County Sheriff

The St. Johns County Commission enacted a new Alarm Ordinance that went into effect in early April of this year. There were several reasons for this ordinance that I would like to tell you about this month as well as information concerning this ordinance.

Last year the Sheriff’s Office responded to over 10,000 false alarm calls. Assuming that these false alarms could take a deputy away from other calls for up to an hour for each call would equate to almost five full time deputies handling nothing but false alarm calls for the year. Most of these were caused by faulty equipment or user error.

The prior ordinance was over 30 years old and contained no remedy for correcting repeated false alarms. The intent of the new ordinance is to shift the cost to the users of alarm systems and ultimately reduce the number of false alarms coming into the Sheriff’s Office.

Currently it is estimated that 24,000 alarm systems may exist in the county and registration was not mandatory and no fees were collected in the past. The new ordinance requires all alarm systems to be registered within ten days of installation and requires all existing unregistered alarms to be registered prior to September 30, 2010. The initial registration fee and yearly renewal is $25 per alarm, however renewal fees will be reduced by 50% if there were no false alarms during the preceding year.

False alarm calls per location would be monitored annually. The first false alarm would result in a notification letter and the second would require a minimal training effort in lieu of a fine.

Afterwards, the third through eighth false alarm would result in fines ranging from $50 to $100 each. The ninth false alarm would require the user to have the alarm inspected plus a fine of $125. A tenth false alarm would result in permit revocation.

Failure to pay any of the mentioned fines would result in suspension of response by the Sheriff’s Office which would resume when the fines are paid and/or the system corrected. There are procedures in the ordinance to allow for false alarms caused by acts of nature or power interruption as well as an appeals process is included.

An alarm user in the county shall ensure that their alarm system is registered with the Sheriff’s Office and has a current registration decal displayed. They shall maintain a set of written operating instructions for the alarm system as well as contact information at each alarm station. The user shall maintain the alarm site and alarm system in a manner that will assist in reducing and preventing false alarms. The alarm user shall not activate their system for any reason other than an occurrence of an event that the system was intended to report. Also, the user shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that a registered responder is at the alarm site within 30 minutes after a request is issued.

If you need any additional information concerning this new alarm ordinance, please contact Susan Biesiada in Alarms at 209-3119. I thank you in advance for complying with this new ordinance.

I would also like to remind our residents that there are several ways you can reach me. In addition to contacting me by phone or appointment at the Sheriff’s Office, you can reach me by e-mail at dshoar@sjso.org. And for additional information on the many programs we offer at the Sheriff’s Office, please go by our website at www.sjso.org.

Photo credits: © 2010 Historic City News staff photographer

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