New Orleans To Crack Down On False Burglar Alarms

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans' police chief and other city officials have announced plans for a crackdown on a problem that wastes police manpower: false burglar alarms.

         Burglary-in-progress phone calls from residents — or alarms triggered by residents — will continue to get emergency responses. So will alarms in which alarm companies verify a crime-in-progress by audio or video.

         But unverified break-in alarms will get a lower priority response under a policy announced Wednesday by chief Michael Harrison. And under a proposed ordinance, two false alarms at an address in one year will bring a $75 fine. A third false alarm that same year will bring a $150 fine — and police will not respond to future alarms at the address.

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         Officials said the ordinance is modeled after successful laws in other cities.

         Harrison said 11 percent of the police department's calls for service are responses to burglar alarms. Of those, almost 99 percent are false alarms. Officials said the wasted man-hours cost the city about $400,000 a year and that eliminating them would amount to adding six full-time police officers to the force.

         "We have studied best practices by police departments around the country, and our proposal is a middle-of-the-road approach that will reduce false alarms, improve police response times to actual crimes and free up police resources to focus more on proactive community policing," Harrison said.

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         The city says that, under current policy, fines for false alarms don't kick in until the fourth incident. The police do not stop responding until the 10th.

         Under the proposed changes, the false alarm count will revert to zero, provided all charges, fees and fines have been paid. "Alarm users will be allowed to appeal false alarm fines and notices of nonresponse," the city said in a news release.

         "We're very happy with the Superintendent's new policy," said Fraternal Order of Police attorney Donovan Livaccari. "This will allow officers to provide better and faster service to citizens in the most urgent need of police response. It will not, however, address the problem that underlies most of NOPD's difficulties, and that's the profound lack of manpower. While we continue to work with the NOPD's leaders to help in addressing that issue, this is a mitigating step we are pleased to see."

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         "We've been strong partners in working to recruit applicants to the New Orleans Police Department and help address the shortage," Livaccari said. "Until we reach the staffing goal, policies like the one adopted this week are a good stopgap measure. We can't put aside the grave need for having more officers on the street, and we know Supt. Harrison recognizes that need, as well. In the interim, this is a forward-thinking change that will have measurable positive impact."





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