MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - When a home security alarms sounds the police have to show up, even if it's a false alarm, which keeps them away from other calls. The most a Memphis homeowner can be fined for a false alarm is $25, and that's only after five false alarms in a year. Now the city council is looking to find a tougher plan.
Since the first of the year until the end of May there were 19,000 alarms; just over 4,400 of them were false.
"It's not only draining police resources, but it's slowing down our response time to real emergencies," noted Memphis City Councilman Kemp Conrad.
City council approved what they claimed was a tough law for false alarms back in 2009. After five false alarms a homeowner would face a $25 fine. Five more false alarms and you get another $25 fine. It was going to be tougher, but then some council members decided to change things.
Conrad said, "One of the things we did I did not support was water down the fines and fees of repeat offenders."
Out of all the security system owners in Memphis there is this small group, maybe 10 or 15 percent of all the people, who apparently can't remember their security codes, and can't remember whether they left the alarm system on or off. They are the people who leave the stove on when vacationing out of town. They are the people who write down all their access numbers on a piece of paper in a wallet, and then forget the wallet.
You can't tell who they are, but the repeat offenders are the ones who are really causing problems.
According to City CAO George Little, "False alarms can create serious safety problems. Alarms tie up officers who could be responding to other calls. Maybe somebody's forgotten their entry code or whatever. So with that in mind, we will have more meetings to discuss what additional teeth we can put in the ordinance."
A recent study by a national police consulting group said Memphis police spend too much time responding to false alarms. The group called Memphis police a "full service police department," meaning they show up for everything, stretching their manpower and resources right to the breaking point at times.