False alarms on home and business security systems will cost users more money starting Aug. 1.
And that’s expected to help recover some of the costs the city incurs responding to about 25,000 alarms a year — 98 percent of which are false calls.
Wichita City Council members voted 4-3 to approve the new rules. Council members Sue Schlapp, Jim Skelton and Paul Gray opposed it.
Users would still get one false alarm at no charge, but for security calls, the second would cost $40 and the fee would reach $350 on the 10th call.
For false fire alarms, which cost about 10 times more to respond to than security alarms, the fee would be $100 on the second and $750 on the 10th.
The ordinance would also replace the one-time $10 registration fee with an annual $25 fee.
The city had proposed higher fees. But alarm companies pushed back hard and talked the city into reduced fees. Council members Gray and Skelton said they still couldn’t support the $25 fee.
“There’s no consideration to how do alarms prevent crimes,” Gray said. “We’re trying to slide budgetary problems on a group because we have the ability to charge for it.”
He said multi-billion dollar insurance companies see the benefits of alarms and offer reduced rates for people that have alarm systems. “Those companies don’t just give away money for the fun of it,” he said.
City Manager Robert Layton said insurance companies may not be looking at the expenses the city incurs every time it rolls out police and fire resources.
Layton said that the entire community is paying for the cost of responding to 24,000 false calls a year, and that those calls can put police and fire officials and the public in danger in the process of responding. “If it was even a 50/50 percent (on false alarms versus actual alarms), we could have a better argument regarding what the savings could be from alarms,” he said.
Layton defended shifting costs to the alarm users instead of all taxpayers. “I think that’s a fair way of doing it,” he said.
The city estimates the cost for police to respond to an alarm at $45 for two officers and one vehicle in half-hour increments. Fire department responses cost an estimated $538 per unit/per call.
The city spends about $335,000 to administer the alarm rules. The $25 a year registration fee is estimated to generate $328,000.
False alarm responses cost an estimated $3 million per year. Overall, the city expects to draw about $500,000 a year from the new rules.
The city plans to continually review false alarm calls.