By Jackson Sveen

Police Chief Bence Hoyle addressed the Cornelius town board on Monday night, Sept. 17, about the issue of false alarms and recommended solutions to this costly nuisance. According to the Hoyle, Cornelius has averaged about 2,400 false alarms annually for the last few years.

After months of researching the different ways to tackle the growing problem, Hoyle suggested implementing an alarm management system that could reduce the strain on town resources.

Every time a false alarm occurs, it ties up responders – referred to as "runners" – that may be needed elsewhere. Each alarm initially requires one or two officers to go to the site and check out the scene for signs of forced entry or criminal activity. The average time spent on an alarm call is between 45 minutes to an hour.

Hoyle presented three options to the town:

Option one: educate residents

Rather than enacting an ordinance to control the problem, police could work to educate the town on the actual costs of false alarms. But the police department doesn't expect that option to help reduce the number of false alarm calls.

"We've tried this with some businesses," said Hoyle. "But we haven't had much success with that."

Option two: create an ordinance

The town could also choose to enact an ordinance but not implement an alarm management system. This solution would make home and business owners more responsible for their systems by implementing fines for false alarms, but the Cornelius PD would still be in charge of managing alarm calls.

Option three: enact ordinance and outsource calls

The third option, which Hoyle recommended, is to implement an alarm management service. This kind of outsourced system paired with an ordinance is already being implemented in Charlotte, Huntersville and several other surrounding communities.

With this option, alarm calls would be handled by a private entity. After researching various companies that offer these kind of services, Hoyle recommended that the town use CryWolf, which handles all of Charlotte's alarm calls.

The company does not charge an initial fee to the town, but will collect 65 percent of the first $40,000 collected by the town.  That percentage taken by CryWolf drops to 55 percent after the amount collected totals $80,000.

Members of the board questioned the financial burden that would be placed on the residents of Cornelius, since the vast majority of the offenders are businesses. Hoyle stated that the availability of police resources from avoiding false alarm calls should outweigh the potential costs to residents.

Some of the fees would include a $10 annual registration fee for all owners of alarm systems and several other fees for multiple false alarms. If an alarm owner does not pay the registration fee, police officers would not respond to that location.

A comprehensive list of the police departments recommended fees:

Registration

$10 annually

Fines

After two (2) false alarms not cancelled by monitoring service

$50 – 3rd, 4th, and 5th occurrence

$100 – 6th and 7th occurrence

$250 – 8th and 9th occurrence

$500 – 10th and over

$100 – All audible alarms that sound more than 15 minutes

Appeals

$10 (refunded if successful)