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False alarm amendment putting homeowners at odds with NOPD

Police chief says too much time spent responding to false alarms. (Source: Flickr Commons) Police chief says too much time spent responding to false alarms. (Source: Flickr Commons)
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -

The push to decrease false alarms in New Orleans is getting push-back.

"The new ordinance I think basically is just for them to make money," Marigny resident Charles Murphy said.

He is opposed to amending an ordinance aimed at decreasing the number of false security alarms.

"They have an ordinance that is currently on the books from 1997 and it hasn't been enforced since Katrina," he said.

The controversy started after NOPD Chief Michael Harrison said officers responded to nearly 48,000 false security alarms last year. Harrison said responding to false alarms is tying up his officers.

"Eleven percent of their time is spent responding to alarms and above 98 percent of those alarms are false. So we could do so many more things with that free time," he said.

Thursday morning, New Orleans City Council members will vote on the proposed amendment backed by Harrison.

The current ordinance gives offenders a warning for up to three false alarms, a fine of $25 for the fourth and fifth times, and on the tenth time officers would no longer respond to the home.

The chief wants to hit offenders with a $75 fine the second time, a $150 fine for the third time, and the fourth time would carry a $225 fine - and officers would then stop responding.

"We have to give people incentives to not have false alarms. The fines are there to educate the public. The fines are there to hold those accountable who are responsible for the false alarms," Harrison said.

But Murphy believes not responding to multiple offenders could set a bad precedent.

"If you have multiple alarms go off during a hurricane or a storm from the way the bill is right now, you could rack those up in no time at all and in that point be on a no response," he said.

Harrison said to deal with specific cases, there will a process to appeal false alarms and clear them off the record when necessary. He also argues the purpose is not to make money, it's to get control of false alarms.

"This is a way to make the police department efficient, a way for our officers to respond things that the citizens really need to respond to, for me to get the best use out of our resources instead of responding to things that are not crimes," Harrison said.

Harrison said the current ordinance has no teeth and does not focus on the biggest offenders who make up for 75 percent of false alarms.

City officials said $400,000 are wasted responding to false alarms, but Murphy claims if this ordinance was put into place last year the city would have made nearly $20 million.

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