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Kamloops News

False alarms draining Kamloops RCMP resources

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KAMLOOPS - False alarms are costing the City of Kamloops more than $30,000 a year and are tying up RCMP resources so council is looking at ways to cut down on that cost.

In an average year false alarms take up 800 hours of police time, according to a city administration report. That's an estimated $31,000 to $34,500 for police to investigate nothing. Additionally, those 800 hours are a drain on a force already understaffed.

In order to encourage better alarm practices and to recuperate some of the costs associated with false alarms city staff has brought forward recommendations for new fines. 

Kamloops’s current fines are relatively similar to other cities in B.C., except Vancouver. The bylaws range in age, with some written in the 1990s, like Kamloops's, which hasn't been updated since 1997.

The first false alarm for an address is commonly a warning, with cities like Victoria, Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon all allowing first time offenders a freebie. From there it varies. Victoria gives the first three as freebies and fines $200 for the fourth and additional offences. Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton have higher fees for each additional offence. In Kelowna the second is $150 and anything more is $250. Vernon runs $50 for the second, $75 for the third and $100 for the fourth and more. Penticton is simpler, with the second $200, third at $300 and fourth at $400.

In Prince George it’s $100 for any false alarms. The northern city's bylaw is also the most recent, updated in 2011. 

Additionally, if an address has more than four false alarms some cities warn they may not send emergency services to attend the alarm. In some cases cities will also hold the property owner liable for additional costs associated with a call, for instance if firefighters have to break down a door to get into a residence. It’s inconsistent between cities whether the bylaw refers to fire departments or police responding to alarms.

Vancouver has a totally different system. People pay a small fee to register their alarm annually, as low as $17.50. If there are three false alarms from an address, emergency services stop responding and a property owner has to pay a fine to reinstate the alarm. Costs are determined by the size of the property.

In Kamloops, depending on the the type of false alarm the first two calls are free or there is a $300 fine, which is also the maximum fine possible. For commercial and residential intrusion false alarms the maximum fine is $100.

Council is looking at changes that would include a larger fine for additional calls but with stiffer penalties. There are two proposed structures, with no warnings or warnings only for the first false alarm. Council will also consider including no responses for the fourth or more false alarm and fees up to $1,000.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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