Atlanta police responded to 65,000 burglar alarms last year, and they estimate nearly 62,000 of them were false. Burglar alarms cry wolf across the metro area, tying up police time that could better be spent patrolling. But as of Sept. 15, Atlanta will try to crack down by requiring home and business owners to register their alarm systems, and by hiring an outside contractor to administer a program of graduated fines for bogus alarms.
The Atlanta Police Department contends false alarms — mostly caused by human error but occasionally by a wandering cat — cost $1.2 million in wasted hours last year. “People need to learn how to use their alarms,” said Herman Hudson, president of the Old Fourth Ward Security Patrol. “If cops are running around answering false alarms, they don’t have time to run after real ones.” Police have always been able to write tickets for false alarms, but APD officials acknowledge that apparently either not enough tickets were written or not enough fines were collected to act as a deterrent. Now Atlanta is contracting with a third party called CryWolf to run the system and ensure the fines get collected. The law going into effect Sept. 15 calls for fines ranging from $50 to $500 per false alarm, depending on the number of alarms an offender has triggered during the year.