Faulty alarm systems could soon subject Northport residents and businesses to higher penalties, significantly higher if there are repeated false alarms in a two-year period.
Village officials allow one non-fee response to what turns out to be a false alarm. After that first one, the village charges $25 when police, fire and village officials respond to an alarm where there is no emergency. Alarms can be triggered by wind, faulty wires or malfunctioning transmitters, but nonetheless are treated as an emergency until responders arrive.
Alarms must be registered with the village.
“Fees haven’t been updated in who knows how long,” Mayor Damon McMullen said. “People may have several false alarms and don’t get around to fixing whatever’s causing them because what’s $25?"
Under the proposed fee increase, homeowners and business would be allowed two false alarm responses without charge, but receive a warning letter . Subsequent false alarms would mean much higher fees. Three within the same two-year period would cost $250. The fees would then increase to $500 for a fourth false alarm; $1,000 for the fifth false alarm; $1,500 for the sixth false alarm and $2,000 for the seventh and each subsequent false alarm within a two-year period. But Mullen said the fee amounts have not been finalized.
“We’ve already had feedback about the high numbers, with some people saying $500 is enough of penalty,” McMullen said. “You want it [a fee] to be enough that people go out and fix the problem, but this will also be discussed at the hearing."
Northport emergency personnel responded to 15 false alarms in 2017 and 16 so far this year, McMullen said.
Suffolk County requires registration for alarms and charges for false alarms. Those fees range from $100 for the third false alarm to as much $500 for both residents and businesses. A county law to charge $100 for the first alarm was tabled in May.
Brent Mele, owner of Hauppauge-based All Action Alarm and Vice President of the Long Island Alarm Association questioned the change, wondering whether someone attempting to enter a house but scared off by an alarm is considered a false alarm. And there may be unintended consequences, he said.
“If the fines are too high, people are either going to tell us to stop sending police, which could be an issue if there is a real burglary and they’re not home and who knows what will happen,” Mele said.
Jim Izzo, first vice president and president elect of the Northport Village Chamber of Commerce, said he would be in favor of an increase especially for repeat offenders, but it should be reasonable.
“I would accept a penalty for repeat offenders, but I don’t know about the numbers, I think the numbers could be a little less severe," he said of the proposed fee structure.
McMullen said the increased fees are not meant to be punitive and that officials are examining all of the fees the villages charges.
“It’s not about getting the money, although we do want to get people’s attention,” McMullen said. “It’s about people fixing their alarms because I don’t need anybody getting hurt responding to a false alarm.”
Proposed Northport fees for false alarms:
No charge for the first two false alarm responses within a two-year period.
The third false alarm: $250
Fourth false alarms: $500
Fifth false alarm: $1,000
Sixth false alarm: $1,500
Seventh and subsequent false alarms: $2,000
A public hearing on the proposal will be held during the village board's regular meeting on Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 224 Main St.