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City Of Wichita Raises False Alarm Fees

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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June 8, 2010

Security system users should expect to pay more to make up for false alarms. Wichita City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday, increasing fees for everyone who uses an alarm system. Now, all users will have to pay a $25 annual fee, and false alarms will cost more for the owner of the system.

Wichita resident Craig Steven got his security system about three weeks ago. As a husband and father, he says he's happy with his purchase.

"I don't think I'd have it if I didn't have my family, because I want to protect them and make sure they're OK," said Steven.

Steven says his family understands it's important to set the alarm in case of an emergency, but they also understand it's important to turn the system off when necessary.

"You have to be cognizant at home of what's going on, and to be aware that the alarm is set, and to be careful," said Steven.

That's the attitude the new ordinance aims to encourage. The city says police and fire crews respond to around 25,000 security system alarms each year. It estimates 98% of those are false alarms, resulting in about $3 million in costs to the city. Now, the higher charges aim to bring the number of false alarms down. The charges will range from $40, up to $750, depending on the number of false alarms coming from one system. All users will now have to pay a $25 annual fee.

"We are sending resources to scenes that are unnecessary, where we wouldn't be responding had it not been for the alarm system," said Wichita City Manager Robert Layton.

Although council members agree, false alarms are a problem, some were not in favor of an annual fee for everyone who owns a system.

"I think it's unnecessary, we're trying to slap budgetary problems on a group because we have an ability to charge for it," said Council Member Paul Gray.

While Steven says he thinks charges should be reasonable, he does understand the purpose.

"They [emergency responders] are here to protect us, and they want to avoid all those unnecessary calls. I can probably understand it," said Steven.

The ordinance goes into effect August 1st. Security system users will be allowed one false alarm response each year from both police and fire, then they will have to begin paying fees.

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The Wichita City Council voted to raise false alarm fees and charge alarm owners a $25 annual registration fee.

City leaders say 98% of all alarms are false. Responses to those calls cost an estimated $3 million a year for police and fire departments.

The registration fee of $25 is estimated to generate $328,000 to administer the new ordinance.

Each alarm owner will be allowed two free false alarms a year, one for police, one for fire. After that the fees will go from $40 for two false police alarms and $100 for two false fire alarms. The fees go up from there. Ten or more false police alarms will cost you $350. Ten or more false fire alarms will cost you $750.

The new fees will go into effect August 1, 2010.

Paul Gray, Sue Schlapp and Jim Skelton voted against the ordinance.


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