Fees unchanged, enforcement planned for false alarms in Meriden

Fees unchanged, enforcement planned for false alarms in Meriden


MERIDEN — City residents won’t be seeing fee increases for false alarms, but they should expect stricter enforcement of the ordinance on security systems.

Members of the City Council public safety committee voted unanimously Tuesday to amend a proposal by Police Chief Jeffry Cossette to match the current ordinance. The ordinance allows four free false alarm responses a year, and imposes fees for each alarm after that — $25 for residences and $100 for businesses.

Under the rejected fee schedule, residents would have incurred a $25 fee for the second false alarm, increasing another $25 for every false alarm thereafter until the fifth and sixth alarms, which would have been $100 each. The seventh false alarm and any thereafter would have been $250 each.

One significant change to the ordinance will be required updates of alarm system registration. A $75 fee will remain for the discovery of an unregistered alarm.

Residents and committee members were concerned about the financial burden of higher fees for taxpayers with alarms, though Cossette said last month Tuesday that the goal is “to get compliance.” He said it is a significant drain on police resources to respond to more than 2,000 false alarms a year, as has been the trend through the past three years.

Committee Chairman Kevin Scarpati, who is a candidate for mayor, said, “We should consider keeping things pretty similar but really enforcing (the ordinance). The issue currently is enforcement; we haven’t had the staff to enforce it as much as we’d like.”

Mayor Manny Santos — who as mayor is an ex officio member of all city boards, commissions, or other government bodies — questioned Cossette as to whether City Manager Lawrence J. Kendzior’s proposed cuts to the police department budget would affect this enforcement effort.

Kendzior is proposing to cut two police service technician positions and one part-time police records clerk position.

“If they cut that part-time guy, that will hurt,” Cossette said.

New billing and maintenance software twill help with enforcement, however. The software replaces an outdated system, and will automatically bill alarm owners that pass the four alarm responses threshold.

Cossette also suggested, and the committee approved, a required battery backup system for alarm owners. The chief said that after electrical storms “11 or 12 alarms will be waiting in the queue that our officers respond to one after another.” Those alarms are almost always triggered by homeowners and businesses having lost power.

Commercial alarm systems also cause big issues for officers. Cossette said that last year more than 60 businesses passed the four false alarm threshold, largely because as businesses change hands or as new employees are hired, those new people aren’t trained on how to disarm a false alarm, Cossette said.

Committee member David Lowell described the commercial false alarm rate as a “gross abuse of police resources,” and he and Deputy Mayor Bob Williams suggested a six-month trial period with the stricter enforcement. If the rate of false alarms remained the same, both advocated for a steeper fee schedule.

The new ordinance will go to the full City Council for final approval.

mcallahan@record-journal.com (203) 317-2279 Twitter: @MollCal

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