False Alarm Calls On The Decline

Police attribute $55,000 in fines

WHEELING — After assessing $55,000 in fines for false alarm calls, city police have experienced a 14 percent drop in alarm calls during the past 12 months.

Between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017, Wheeling Police Department responded to 969 alarms. A year later (Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept. 30 of this year), officers were called to 834 alarms with only eight of those proving to be valid calls, said Philip Stahl, public information officer for the Wheeling Police Department.

Stahl said over the past 12 months, the city leveled fines totaling $55,000 against residential and commercial property owners who either failed to register their alarms or whose properties experienced multiple false alarms.

Failure to register an alarm results in a $100 fine. Fines also are levied for repeat false alarms.

Stahl said the first false alarm is free. Subsequent fines include $50 for a second false alarm; $100 for a third and fourth; $200 for a fifth and sixth; $300 for a seventh and eighth; and $400 for a ninth and beyond.

“We have answered one particular alarm eight times in one year,” Stahl said. “We don’t want to discourage anyone from having an alarm because they do help protect property. We just ask that they have alarm user accountability.”

The city’s general fund earns 62 percent of fines collected while the Cry Wolf Services from Maryland and Florida, which manages the program, gets 38 percent.

The city initiated the Wheeling False Alarm Reduction Program program on Oct. 1, 2016. It requires all burglar or panic type alarms, such as those at banks, to be registered with the city. Registrations must be renewed each year in October. Letters have gone out to current alarm holders as a reminder to renew. Registration is free.

Currently, the city has 974 commercial and residential alarms in the registration program. Medical alert and fire alarms are not included in the program.

The three months with the highest alarm calls were: 86 in December 2017; 81 in July of this year; and 78 in October 2017.

The three months with the lowest alarm calls were all recorded in 2018. They included 47 calls in April; 61 in June; and 64 in August.

“We have gone 50 days out of the past 365 without a false alarm,” Stahl said. “The year before it was only 30 days.”

Stahl said with fewer alarm calls, city officers are able to perform more street patrols and other work. He noted that two officers are required to respond to an alarm for safety reasons.

“If someone puts in the proper code before we get there, there is no fine … It’s only when we have to actually show up that there are fines,” Stahl said.

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