Alarm Fee Debate Continues
Alarm Fee Debate Continues
If a local government charges fees just for owning a home security system, is it good public policy or a blatant money grab? Your answer probably depends on where you sit in relation to the cash flow.
Syracuse, N.Y., has become one of most recent settings for this debate. City officials in Syracuse have proposed charging homeowners and business with security systems $30 every year. According to news reports, the plan would require security companies to collect the fees from their customers and then pay the city.
As in other cities that enforce similar rules, officials in Syracuse point out that false alarms cause increased demands on public safety resources. Although earlier plans called for the fee revenues to pay for hiring new employees for police and fire department employees, now the money – estimated at $360,000 annually – would go into the city’s general fund with no specific requirements on how it’s used.
Bear in mind that charges like these are separate from the actual fines charged for false alarms. You don’t have to read the letters to the editor in The Post-Standard to imagine how home security system owners probably feel about this use of taxpayer dollars.
Reducing your risk for false alarms
Despite advances in technology and the growth of user-friendly operating systems, false alarms remain a fact of life with security systems. It’s not really a technological issue – it’s mostly a people issue. Human error causes more false alarms than any other factor.
Fortunately, you have tools at your disposal to reduce your risk for false alarms. Here are some suggestions:
- One type of human error that contributes to false alarms is improper installation. If you feel confident enough in your handiness to choose a do-it-yourself-installation, be sure to follow the instructions closely. Chances are they were written with the help of engineers who know much more about home security systems electronics in general than the average person.
- For those who don’t trust their DIY skills, the good news is that many security companies offer professional installation along with a short tutorial from the installer.
- Make sure that all family members of the appropriate ages know how to operate the system. (Given today’s tech-savvy youth, kids might even be more comfortable with the controls than their parents.)
- If you have pets, look into a home security system with a pet-friendly motion detector. You can program this device to disregard the movements of indoor pets.
- Besides human error and pets, faulty equipment ranks as one of the top false alarm culprits. As you shop for home security, find out what kind of warranty or service plan each provider offers.
If you choose, you can sit out the policy debate. Take steps to help ensure that any false alarm fines enforced in your community won’t be collected from you.