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City council set to vote on false alarm ordinance

The Columbia City Council has a full agenda for its meeting Monday night. On the list, an ordinance that would create more severe penalties for excessive false alarms.

Currently, the ordinance fines alarm users $100 for three or more false alarms in 30 days, or 12 or more in 365 days.

The ordinance amendments would shorten that time span to three alarms in 12 months.

According to the city, from January 2011 through June 2017, Columbia police officers responded to about 29,000 alarm calls, 98 percent of which were false.

Each false alarm call requires at least two officers to respond and takes about 30 minutes of their time. That adds up a lot of officer’s time and the city money that officials say could be better spent somewhere else.

In addition to the fine, the ordinance would make it a misdemeanor for an alarm user to activate an alarm to get a law enforcement response when there is no burglary, robber or other dangerous crime happening.

Alarm users would also be required to register their alarm and information with the city. A $20 permit fee would be charged for registering and obtaining the alarm permit with a $10 fee every year after that. If an alarm changes ownership (i.e. if a home with an alarm is sold to another owner), the new owner has 15 days to update the city with their information. The city will also send annual cards asking for any updated information to registered alarm permit holders.

If the ordinance passes, it would take effect Jan. 1.

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