The Ceres City Council took action Monday to put more teeth into a system that fines residents and business owners for repeated false alarms.
Since 1993 the city has had a system in place to issue fines for those who cannot get a handle on repeated false burglar alarms within a 12-month period.
Adjustments approved Monday allow the city to issue fines under an administrative citation process rather than take the offender to Small Claims Court.
Ceres Police allow up to two false alarms within a 12-month period at which time a warning is issued. The protocol calls for a $35 fine for a third false alarm, $70 for a fourth, $100 for the fifth, and $500 for the sixth and more. The new fine system is $100 for a first citation, $250 for a second and $500 for a third or more.
Deputy Chief of Police Mike Borges said "trying to collect has not been a very enviable task by our staff."
Under the new plan, repeat offenders who are being cited have the option to file an appeal within 10 days to face an independent administrative appeals officer at a City Hall hearing. If the fine stands the amount must be paid or will be placed on a utility bill. Non-payment of the utility bill will result in water service being cut off.
False alarms are costly in terms of police salary time, said Borges. During the first three months of 2013, 609 alarm calls came into the dispatch center, of which 69 percent were false alarms with two officers per call spending five to 10 minutes each in response. Of the 609 false alarms, 26 percent were ineligible for billing since the alarm company or owner cancelled before dispatchers sent out officers.
Only about 11 of the 609 alarm calls proved to reveal a true break-in, he said.
Of the $2,950 billed for false alarms this year , only $705 has been paid.
Ceres Police do not wish to ignore alarms such as Modesto and Turlock do unless there is a verifiable report of a break-in.
Vice Mayor Ken Lane said he favored putting teeth into the system to curb the waste of resources caused by irresponsible owners.
"Some of these people don't care," added Borges.