Committee OKs new rules on false alarms

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An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the city’s intentions to impose fines for failure to register security alarm systems. While the city has the power to do so under an existing ordinance, City Hall has since clarified it has no such intentions at this time.

PITTSFIELD — The city could soon crack down on false alarm calls by imposing fines for repeat offenders.

This week the City Council's Committee on Ordinances and Rules preliminarily approved a measure allowing for new security alarm protocols proposed by the city's chief information officer, Mike Steben. The measure includes a new registration process for alarm holders, as well as a system for collecting fines from those whose alarms go off repeatedly without cause.

The full council will make a final decision on the new rules in the coming weeks. Steben said the city doesn't plan on enforcing the measure until after Jan. 1.

City officials reported last month the city loses about $160,000 annually to false alarms, between labor costs and uncollected fines. The city has long had an ordinance in place empowering it to collect fines for false alarms, but the city never established a mechanism for collecting those fines — until now.

Steben said he's also developing an online system that residents and business owners can use to register security alarm systems for free. Under the approved language, there's no registration fee.

"We wanted to eliminate all barriers to providing us with updated information," Steben said.

Steben said there’s language in the ordinance empowering the city to fine those who don't register their alarm systems, but at this time the city has no intention of invoking that provision.

He said security alarm holders get one free false alarm per year, then the fines escalate from $50 to $100 for subsequent offenses.

Steben said he decided to tackle the issue under the guidance of Mayor Linda Tyer, who aims to modernize city government and recover lost revenues. Steben said the city realizes this is a substantive change and so it won't be enforced without first making sure the community is aware.

"This will be well-publicized, well-communicated," he told councilors.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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