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Manteca’s alarming situation

Failure to renew permit may cost you $200

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POSTED December 29, 2017 12:34 a.m.

If your burglar alarm goes off in 2018 and you haven’t obtained a permit from the Manteca Police Department or updated an existing permit get ready to shell out $200.
That’s the price hundreds of homeowners and business pay each year for failing to follow the rules. Typically the city collects more than $100,000 in fines on an annual basis for failure to comply with the burglar alarm rules.
In a bid to make it easier for those with burglar systems to renew or apply for a permit, an on-line form has been created that is available at ci.manteca.ca.us/Police/AlarmPermit/default.aspx. You will not be able to submit the online form, however, until Monday, Jan. 1. If you do so before Jan. 1, the information will be invalid at the stroke of midnight New Year’s Eve.
You can also download the form and mail or fax it to the department.
All permits expire annually on Dec. 31. Typically those with alarms have until the end of January to update the information.
The permit costs nothing. It requires the name of the homeowner and contacts for two other individuals who have keys and can respond within 20 minutes after they are contacted by police.
A high number of false alarms over the years where officers responded but had no contacts on file to help determine whether the house or business was secure prompted Manteca nine years ago to put in place a policy requiring all burglar alarms to have city permits.
Failure to obtain the permit can be costly, though.
During a 13-month period ending Feb. 7, 2015 Manteca issued fines totaling $176,000 for alarm violations. A sizable sum are for alarms without permits, repeat offenders who fail to get a permit after the first time police respond or that don’t renew it on an annual basis with updated information as required by city ordinance.
In 2008 — the year prior to the existing rules being put in place — there were 3,587 residential burglar alarms activated of which 98.7 percent were mechanical failure or owner error with no criminal activity. Sensors have been tripped by family pets, cleaning crews, store banners, and even spiders.
The loss in police manpower tied up in responding to false alarms was pegged at $80,000 in 2009. Police noted at the time they often did not have contact information when they responded to provide access or the ability to call someone with keys.
A study in 2009 noted each alarm response took an average of 18 minutes to respond, check the structure and contact the owner. Due to the nature of the calls it requires two officers. Manteca Police devoted 2,116 hours in 2009responding to false alarms. The hours have since declined slightly since the ordinance as put into effect.
Manteca’s policy, however, isn’t quite as strict as it is in other places.
A number of cities require additional steps to justify a legitimate alarm response such as an eyewitness account by either a private security firm or a neighbor or an internal video feed that shows a crime in progress before agencies like the San Jose Police Department will even respond to a residential burglary alarm.
Panic, robbery, medical and duress alarms are excluded from Manteca’s policy.
Many jurisdictions besides Manteca have instituted similar polices. In every case it is the direct result of false alarms tying up limited police resources made even more critical during budget challenges.
Prior to July 1, 2009 the city allowed two false alarm responses a month without charging. The third, fourth, and fifth call each month resulted in a $50 charge each. There previously was no charge for not having an alarm permit or for the owner failing to respond. The ordinance that is now in effect charges $200 for no alarm permit and $100 if the owner fails to respond.
Current city policy allows for two false alarms a year and not two a month as was allowed prior to July 1, 2009. There is not a charge for the first two responses. The third false response is $100, the fourth response is $200, and the fifth is $400.
The contract for alarm service is between the alarm company and the alarm owner and is not binding on the city.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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