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Jefferson officials are alarmed ordinance isnt working
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JEFFERSON — Late last year, the Jefferson City Council approved an alarm ordinance with the goal of cutting down on the number of false alarm calls to the police department.

According to a draft of the ordinance posted on the city’s Web site, "The purpose of this ordinance is to establish reasonable expectation of alarm users and to ensure that alarm users are held responsible for their alarm system."

The ordinance took effect on Jan. 1 and since that time, little has changed.

"We’ve seen an insignificant decrease," said Joe Wirthman, Jefferson police chief. "Last year, we averaged around 77 false alarm calls per month. So far this year, the average is around 75 calls per month."

Responding to false alarm calls is a waste of resources, Wirthman said.

"When calls come in, usually two officers go out to respond. With a 15 or 20 minute travel time, that’s almost a week’s worth of time in a month lost responding to a false alarm," said Wirthman. "Not to mention the wear and tear on a vehicle and the fuel used."

Now more than ever, false alarm calls are hurting the police department’s limited resources. During the city’s planning phases for the 2010 fiscal year, most departments, including the police, had to cut back overtime pay and other expenditures.

Although the ordinance is for both residential and commercial alarm users, Wirthman says the majority of the calls come from businesses.

Alarm users are allowed two false alarm calls before they receive a citation. On the third offense, fines start at $50.

Overall, the city has done what it can to curtail false alarm calls by creating the ordinance, Wirthman said. The next step would be increasing the fines, but the police chief said that would be a last resort.

"We’re going to continue what we’re doing to monitor the city. I don’t know how much more we could tweak the ordinance," he said. "Unless we start charging more for the fines, but it’s a tough economy for everyone, so we don’t really want to go there. No matter if it is a user error, or a problem with the alarm system, people need to get it straightened out so our officers aren’t out responding to false alarms."