Casper Council Considers Penalties for False Alarms
On Tuesday, the Casper city council heard from Casper police chief Keith McPheeters about the prevalence of false alarms in the community, where they come from, and what the city could do to address them.
McPheeters said that over the past year, they've been researching how to address the issue of false alarms at residences, of which 99.2% of the 1,200 a year on average are false alarms, and at businesses, of which 91% of the 133 panic or hold-up alarms in 2021 were false.
False alarms have increased by 45% in 2022 compared to the same point in 2021.
Earlier this year in April, McPheeters had come to the council to talk about the issue of false alarms and had provided a draft proposal that had allowed people six false alarms before initiating fines.
At the meeting on Tuesday, McPheeters said that that is being too lenient, and the new ordinance he's proposing imposes a $75 fine on the third false alarm for private residences which increases to $500 for the sixth false alarm and every false alarm after that.
For businesses, there would be a $250 fine on the second false alarm, which would increase to a $750 fine for the fourth false alarm and any subsequent ones after that.
Due to the increase in police response required for the hold-up alarms at businesses, the fines are greater and have less leniency.
People with an alarm system would also need to purchase a $25 annual permit and make sure to keep their addresses and phone numbers up to date, while alarm companies would need to pay $100 for an annual permit for all alarms they have in the city.
McPheeters said that since April, they've held a stakeholder meeting where they spoke with alarm companies and businesses to better inform what the ordinance should look like.
The police department also looked at a recent study funded by the Security Industry Alarm Coalition which outlined what kind of ordinances best reduce the number of false alarms in cities across the country.
That study found that things like harsher penalties, alarm permits, fewer free responses, and not responding to repeat offenders, would decrease the amount of false alarms police have to deal with.
The ordinance incorporates many of the suggestions in that study.
McPheeters said that they have an issue with clerks accidentally pushing panic alarms, which wastes more police officers' time than just the two officers that respond to a false alarm at a private residence.
"I also have a significant problem with what are called hold-up alarms, panic alarms, duress alarms," McPheeters said. "That's the alarm that when someone pushes that alarm, that's the one where all police work stops in the city of Casper. Whatever we're doing, we stop what we're doing, because that's the signal that someone's life is in imminent danger, so there's an armed robbery at the bank, we're being kidnapped and held against our will in our home, that kind of thing...when we did the research, we couldn't find a single one that turned out to be an actual hold-up type emergency...what happens is that an employee is not trained on, what's that button under the counter, and they're like 'hey I wonder what that does, and they hit it.' Then the police officers arrive and we're pointing guns at everybody and we've traumatized everybody."
The false alarm ordinance proposed to the council will be voted on at their next regular meeting, which will need three votes before it is codified.