With less than a month to go before the city of Sandy Springs’ amended false alarm ordinance goes into effect, the city is tweaking it one last time.
Over the years the law has been amended several times, but the biggest change came in June. At that time the city council approved additional changes to the ordinance requiring alarm companies to provide true, confirmed verification through audio, video or in-person confirmation on intrusion (burglar) alarm activations before calling 911. The new requirements take effect June 19, providing alarm companies with a full 12 months to implement them.
“The city attorney’s office recommends amending the Sandy Springs Municipal Code, Section 1835, to allow alarm companies to submit audio or video verification up to 24 hours after the request for and dispatch of emergency services in response to an intrusion alarm,” Staff Attorney Joe Leonard said.
At its meeting May 21 at City Springs, the council voted 6-0 to approve that amendment. It will give alarm companies a day to present evidence to prove a false alarm is legitimate after all.
Of the amendment, City Attorney Dan Lee after the meeting said, “It’s really confusing. I wish we had worded it a little differently. The change tonight is an allowance to produce proof that there was something wrong, because many times the company will call and say there’s an intrusion. ‘Do you have verification?’ ‘No, I don’t.’ ‘OK, check, false alarm.’ You get to undo that.
“It’s not, ‘You’ve got 24 hours to let us know and we’ll send the police out there,’ because that’s over and done within the next three or four minutes. This is an allowance to the companies to be able to provide (evidence) if they can find it later. It’s like the homeowner comes home, and they have a camera that the company doesn’t have access to and they can show something. ‘Bring that in.’”
Leonard said since the true verification amendment to the ordinance was approved, the city has done all it could to inform the public, alarm companies and the media about the changes as the effective date approached.
In March 2018, after the council approved amending the ordinance to shift the fines for false alarm violations from the customers to the alarm companies for the false alarms they reported to 911 on behalf of their customers, the companies and an organization backing them filed a federal lawsuit against the city.
The companies claimed the ordinance violated their constitutional rights by fining the alarm companies for the false alarms. The lawsuit was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge in December, and it is under appeal.
During a false alarm update near the end of the council meeting, Capt. Dan Nable of the Sandy Springs Police Department said the city has 14,080 registered alarm users and a false alarm rate of 99.6% out of the about 10,000 alarm calls it gets annually. The high rate of false alarms burdens Sandy Springs’ police officers and 911 call center by causing them to spend more time on false alarms than legitimate 911 calls, he added.
Nable said in the past four weeks the city has had over 500 alarm calls and all have been false.
The night before the meeting, the city hosted an alarm company expo where 26 alarm companies explained to about 200 residents how they are handling the newly amended ordinance that takes effect next month, he said.