by Brian Carlton

CORNELIUS – More than 80 percent of the alarm calls Cornelius police responded to so far this year turned out to be false. Now town commissioners want to address what they see as a waste of manpower and resources.

Commissioners instructed town staff during their Aug. 6 meeting to study the possibility of adding an alarm ordinance. An ordinance could allow the town to charge a fine when an alarm goes off falsely too many times. The board has not discussed what the fine or what the threshold might be.

Commissioner Chuck Travis said Cornelius police responded to 3,000 alarm calls this year. Out of that number, an estimated 30 were real calls.

“It’s overtaxing our police department,” Travis said. “In some cases, there have been 40 false alarms from one location.”

Travis said that it took an average of 30 minutes for officers to respond to and verify if an alarm call was false, taking them away from other duties. This comes at a time when criminals have been targeting homes in Cornelius, breaking into either the house or a vehicle on the property at all hours of the day.

Travis explained that the issue was a personal one for him, as his house had been broken into on July 25. Nothing was taken or damaged, he said, and his home was saved by the home’s alarm system. With officers responding to every call, false alarms create problems for the rest of the town, Travis said.

“It puts the rest of us at risk,” he said.

Using technology to be more efficient

To address issues such as the recent series of break-ins, the police department is using technology to become more efficient, Town Manager Anthony Roberts said.

The town already budgeted to install multiple traffic cameras, which will soon be operational. If an incident occurs, the cameras can be activated to search for a suspect.

A license plate scanner will also be installed in the squad cars, Roberts said.

“You can ride through a parking lot (with the scanner) and see who has warrants,” he said, adding that it would take far less time than reading the individual plates and calling it in. “It’s pretty neat. The technology allows us to be more efficient.”