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South Simcoe police will bill for false alarms starting in January

Property owners will get one 'freebie' but will then be billed for every false alarm police respond to; Fee being considered is $120
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(stock photo)

Just a head’s up to anyone whose alarm system has been generating false alarms.

The South Simcoe Police Service is looking at new software that will monitor for false alarms, and will validate the call before dispatching officers to the scene.

At the moment, 95 per cent of the alarms investigated are false alarms, said Deputy Police Chief John Van Dyke, but still require two officers to respond, which is tying up resources. 

South Simcoe police will also be charging for false-alarm calls. A first false alarm will be free, but “on your second one, there’s going to be a fee on that,” and on every subsequent false alarm, noted Van Dyke, something that could become “a significant revenue stream, and hopefully change behaviour.”

The fee won’t apply to property owners who immediately notify the monitoring company that an error has been made. The problem, said Police Chief Andrew Fletcher, is that “people get sloppy and they don’t necessarily validate it,” leaving it up to responding officers to discover that the call-out was a false alarm.

The fee being considered is $120, after the first freebie.

“There are a couple of ‘frequent flyers’,” said Van Dyke, alluding to businesses that have generated numerous false alarms. “But right now, our program doesn’t have a lot of teeth.”

The South Simcoe Police Service has data on false alarms going back to 2016. That year, police responded to 967 alarms, of which only 49 — or five per cent  turned out to be valid. There were similar numbers and percentages in both 2017 and 2018.

The number of alarm calls decreased in 2019 and 2020, to 812 and 674 respectively, largely due to COVID keeping many homeowners at home. But the number of false alarms remained constant at 95 per cent.

The software monitoring and billing program will be introduced in January 2022. Each location will have one free false-alarm response in its “lifetime.” Subsequent false alarms will result in the central monitoring company being invoiced. Companies will be asked to attempt to verify an alarm before notifying police.

“It would be nice to come up with a program like this for 911 misdials,” Innisfil Mayor Lynn Dollin also said at the meeting.

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Miriam King

About the Author: Miriam King

Miriam King is a journalist and photographer with Bradford Today, covering news and events in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil.
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