CITY HALL — Santa Monicans used to paying a bit extra for home security systems will be seeing an increase to their bills under newly-approved regulations that require their alarms be registered with police.
The new rules, approved by the City Council on second reading Tuesday night, mean that property owners with alarm systems must fork over another $27 to list their alarms with the Santa Monica Police Department.
That amount will grow each year based on inflation.
The extra cash will ensure that the correct addresses are automatically recorded in police records, at the same time bringing up important information about the property in question, said Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks.
Police and fire officials want to know if there’s a dangerous dog on the property, if the residents are elderly or if the person on the other end of a response owns a firearm, she said.
“It presents a time saver for the emergency dispatch operators and a level of safety for first response personnel,” Seabrooks said.
The fee is expected to raise $151,200 annually for the effort from roughly 5,600 alarms throughout the city, money included in the budget approved by the City Council on June 25.
Life will also get slightly more expensive for property owners whose security systems send out false alarms.
False alarms require an emergency response, which costs the department time, manpower and money, and it’s a fairly common event. Of the 2,812 alarm calls that came in during the 2011-12 fiscal year, over one-third constituted the second time — or more — that police personnel responded to a false alarm at the same property.
To promote the “responsible use of alarm systems,” the department suggested allowing property owners one false alarm per year. After that, they’ll be charged $164.86 for each response.
Based on the 2011-12 fiscal year alone, that would mean $175,246 for the department.
Property owners with overly-excited alarm systems will be greeted with a written notice informing them of either the faulty system or an “improper” use of the alarm and the potential consequences for the mishap.
Although there can be numerous explanations for false alarms, most can be chalked up to human error, said Pamela Grguric, the treasurer for National Alarms Company.
Oftentimes, a homeowner will trip their own alarm, and when the company calls to ask what happened, they will not pick up the phone, Grguric said.
But don’t just stop there. Property owners can call their security companies directly if they know they’ve tripped the alarm to prevent the false alert from going out, she said.
Sometimes, it just takes a little forethought.
An animal running around the house, a sign attached to the ceiling or a creature or inanimate object moving in front of a sensor can all raise red flags to security companies, according to Protection 1, an alarm system company.
Sensors made specifically for animals can prevent most alarms, according to the company.
Messy activities that produce dust or smoke can trigger fire alarms, and even nasty weather conditions can cause doors and windows to shift in ways that look like an intruder is trying to get in.
Locking and closing doors and windows is critical not only to keeping out unwanted guests, but also to avoid fines, the company warns.