FALSE ALARMS: The high cost of response

Published: Feb. 22, 2016 at 8:02 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 2, 2018 at 4:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - On any given night, dozens of false alarms ring out throughout Tucson.

Just like the boy who cried wolf, the Tucson Police Department no longer respond to most of those alarms unless there is good reason.

"That's just a nature of how many officers we have and how much work there is to do out there," said Sgt. Chris Andreacola.

The TPD used to get 21,000 false alarms each year. Now, that number is down to 4,500. Andreacola said the false alarm registration fee and ordinance have helped cut the numbers down.

"You went from 60 a day down to about 13," he said. "Now you have officers available for all the real crimes occurring in the city."

That is not good enough for some business owners, who are now sounding the alarm and claim their electronic calls for help are going unheard. Esteban Voltares, who works at Old Towne Tattoo, said the shop lost $40,000 worth of equipment to a burglary.

"They came and kicked a door," he said.

The alarm company received a distress call during the burglary, but there was no police response.

"I think it's ridiculous," Voltares said. "Why am I paying that fee if nobody is even responding?"

Andreacola said that is not quite right.

"First off, they're not paying for anything," he said. "We're not a for-profit company. The false alarm ordinance is regarding false alarms. If anybody has an actual burglary that occurs clearly at some point the police department is going to show up. Could that be minutes, hours later? It could be, depending on the priorities."

Staff at the Tucson Alarm Company said they realize false alarms are a big problem for the whole industry.

Mick Phillips, SW Branch Manager for Tucson Alarm Company, said motion detectors cause the largest amount of false alarms.

The company is now providing armed guard services to clients, peace of mind for customers who worry the blaring call for help may not be heard.

"You take the law into your own hands you get in trouble," Voltares said. "If you call the cops, you're not a priority. So what do you do, you know."

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