The Danville Police Department receives more calls to respond to burglar alarms than any other call for service -- and 98 percent of the alarms are false.
Although false alarms have been the No. 1 call for service for the past three years, an alarm registry program has decreased the number of calls by approximately 150 since its inception in January 2012. There are approximately 900 residential alarms in Danville, which accounted for 30 percent of all false alarm calls in 2012.
"My general feeling about alarms is not to complain that some of them are false...it doesn't mean that they're not effective," said Crime Prevention Specialist Carol Burroughs. "The beauty of Danville (Police Department) is that you have the luxury of being a full service agency. Other agencies are being cut and they might not even respond."
Danville's alarm registration program stipulates that fines can be assessed when a home or business alarm sends out a false signal. According to reports conducted in 2010, the ordinance was expected to save the Danville Police Department $69,000 and 754 hours of work per year.
Police received 2,115 false alarm calls in 2011, and 2,297 such calls in 2010; officials did not track false alarm calls in 2009 or 2008. Officers determined that all calls in 2010 were either false or triggered by unsecured doors or windows, making all alarm calls unfounded.
Burroughs added that the main goal of the registry -- which is voluntary but levies a $50 fine on third-time false alarm offenders -- is compliance. The Danville police want to encourage residents to be aware of when their alarms need to be serviced, that all proper parties have the correct code or if alarms are hyper-sensitive.
"Our goal is to make sure that the alarms that are are working properly and people are knowledgeable," Burroughs said.
According to a report by then-crime specialist Mike Wells, Danville police receive alarm calls from approximately 175 different monitoring companies and responded to 1,043 different locations in 2010, accounting for approximately 20 minutes of police time. Since its inception, the registration program has proven successful in tracking over-active alarms.
"The alarm permit program was kind of set up so that we're partnering with the client, whether its a business or residence, and that alarm company so that we're able to track those alarms," Burroughs said. "It brings us into that triangle kind of environment. We now have methodology to contact those companies if we need to."
Burroughs said that fine revenue has been nominal, estimating that the department had received about $10,000 in third-time offense fines. Danville's cost of violation is about half of those in San Ramon, Concord, Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill, Burroughs noted. With the exception of San Ramon, all cities charge a yearly permit fee where Danville does not.
"The registration is meant to help modify behavior and encourage people to be an active participant in the alarm business. The homeowner has to be responsible," she said.
For more information on Danville's alarm permit process, visit www.danville.ca.gov/Permits/Alarm.