If you own a home security system in the city of San Diego, you’ll no longer get a freebie visit from police if the alarm activates and it turns out to be a false alarm, according to a new rule.
With the New Year, home security companies are reminding customers about rules implemented last summer which make the first false alarm offense a $100 fine. The second offense of this kind goes up to $200 and so on, with five or more occurrences topping out at $500.
The San Diego Police Department hopes the more stringent rules cut down on false alarms, and in turn helps officers improve response times in the face of staffing shortages.
In response to an NBC 7 request for the number of false alarms in the city of San Diego last year, a department spokesperson said the information was “not readily available.”
Per the rules, homeowners must register with the city and update their permit annually, which costs $10, with the city. That can be done online here.
Homeowners caught without a permit, during a false alarm call, are subject to an additional $300 fine.
Below are some tips from one local company, Scripps Ranch Security, on preventing false alarms and paying a penalty:
KNOW YOUR PASSWORD
If your alarm goes off (accidentally or not), many monitoring companies will call you and request a password so that they can verify you're the homeowner. Sounds simple, but if you haven't set off the alarm in a while, you might actually forget the password — so make sure it is something you can remember.
KEEP YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION UP-TO-DATE
If your alarm goes off accidentally and the monitoring service can't reach you or one of your emergency contacts, most likely they'll send the police to your home and you'll be hit with a false alarm fee. You can call our monitoring station anytime 24hrs a day and verify that we have your current home number or cell phone numbers on file.
PROGRAM YOUR CELL PHONES
Please program your cell phones with your central station phone numbers, that way you will recognize the number and not ignore it when you’re called with notification that an alarm occurred.
CALL TO CANCEL THE POLICE
This is the biggest step you can take to prevent false alarms and penalties.
If you believe it is a false alarm you can always call our monitoring center and cancel the police, even if they have already been dispatched. If we are able to cancel them before they show up to your residence then they may not charge you for a false alarm
GIVE "ALARM LESSONS"
It may seem obvious, but it's important that everyone who lives in your home or has access to it, knows how to use the alarm system properly. That includes arming the system, shutting it off, and communicating with the alarm company to cancel the police. If everyone has been duly educated, you run a lower risk of setting off a false alarm.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR VISITORS
For anyone you share a key with — the cat sitter, your aunt, or the friend who visits once a year —make sure you let them know you've set the alarm and that they need to turn it off. Otherwise, everyone's eardrums will blow out and you might have to pay a fee to your city.
MAKE SURE ALL YOUR DOORS AND WINDOWS ARE CLOSED AND LATCHED
A slightly open window or door can easily trigger a false alarm. Some systems will beep and prevent you from even setting the alarm if there is an open door or window. Even if don't have a sophisticated system, a slight draft through an open window can still trigger a false alarm — and defeat the purpose of the system in the first place.
CHANGE YOUR BATTERIES
When your system's sensor batteries are running low, they can cause a false alarm when the system is set. The keypad display will always show which battery is low and you will also get an email from our office with instructions on how to change them or to schedule a service appointment for our technician to replace them.
PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU DO
We all get in a mode when we get home, as we grab the mail, bend down to pet the dog, or are just too distracted with the day’s events to remember to shut off the alarm. A simple act of forgetfulness could get you an unwanted visit by the police.
WATCH YOUR DECORATIONS
Believe it or not, balloons, Christmas decorations or hanging lamps can set off a motion detector — so watch where you place them and make sure they're out of the motion detector's line of sight.
DUST YOUR SENSORS ON A REGULAR BASIS
Yes, dust and cobwebs and other such particles can trigger a motion sensor, spiders like to crawl inside because it is warm so make sure to keep the area around the motion sensors free from cobwebs.