Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County proposed ordinance seeks to curb false alarms

Pinellas County is preparing to launch a new false alarm-reducing ordinance July 1, but security industry analysts say those measures aren't enough.

Along with penalizing residents for false alarm calls, they say more stringent enforcement of an existing Florida statute should be part of the plan.

Numbers of false alarm responses by Pinellas County deputies in recent years climbed to more than 14,000 annually.

Reducing that number, authorities say, is both a matter of public safety and government efficiency.

The new policy looks to reduce unnecessary deputy investigations by penalizing residents and business owners for false alarms.

The Sheriff's Office has requested that residents and business owners in unincorporated areas and 12 contract cities register their alarms before July 1. Failing to do so could result in fines up to $600 for repeat false alarm offenders.

The St. Petersburg Police Department and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office have implemented similar policies in recent years. Those efforts parallel a growing national trend.

Law enforcement officials, politicians and security company executives have collaborated in recent years to ease the burden on responding police officers and sheriff's deputies.

"We work very closely with law enforcement," said Ann Lindstrom, spokeswoman for ADT. Efforts to curb false alarm instances are in everyone's interest, she said.

Both Hillsborough County and St. Petersburg have seen substantial drops in recent years.

Hillsborough County reported false alarms have been cut in half since 2003.

St. Petersburg officials reported a drop from 13,000 to about 7,000 false alarms between 2002 and 2007. The number unexpectedly jumped to about 11,000 false alarms in 2008.

But recent local government approaches to slashing false alarms aren't enough, said Ron Walters, director of field operations for the Security Industry Alarm Coalition. He said the most effective false alarm reduction policies also place significant responsibility on security company agents.

Before contacting police, security companies should twice attempt to reach residents or business owners before reporting the alarm to authorities, Walters said. As many as half of all Florida security companies aren't doing this, he said.

That's despite a Florida statute requiring agents in most instances to follow up initial phone calls before contacting police. Known as Enhanced Call Verification, it's a difficult policy to enforce, Walters and government officials agree.

"We don't need to spend any money or time to bring about over 90 percent compliance," of the existing statute, Walters said.

By ensuring security companies make the second call before contacting emergency personnel, false alarms could fall by 25 percent, he said.

That's because follow-up phone calls often reach residents or business owners who then confirm the alarm was inadvertent, he said.

As many as half of Florida security companies don't follow this regulation, he said.

"Once the reduction is achieved, you can stop asking the question and still maintain lower levels of response requests," he said.

Keith Lilly, president of locally based All Phase Security Systems Inc., said licensed companies throughout Florida are already making second phone calls. It's part of required training, he said.

As security alarms have become more popular, so too has the need to curb false alarms, they say. More than 90 percent of total reported security alarms are unwarranted, according to official estimates.

By responding to dozens of false alarms each day, Pinellas County sheriff's Sgt. Larry Nalven said, authorities were potentially unable to respond to more serious calls.

For Walters, part of the answer is already on the books.

"It's a matter of enforcing laws that are already in place," Walters said.

Brian Spegele can be reached at or (727) 445-4154.

Pinellas County proposed ordinance seeks to curb false alarms 05/28/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 28, 2009 8:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. BREAKING: Tropical Storm Harvey forms in Atlantic


    UPDATE: At 5 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  2. Editorial: Pinellas should join lawsuit challenging new state law


    The Florida Legislature has been on a cynical, constitutionally dubious quest to render local school boards powerless. The most direct assault is a new state law that strips school boards of much of their authority when it comes to the creation and funding of charter schools. It's time for the Pinellas County School …

  3. Editorial: Fix funding unfairness in Florida foster care system


    Many of the children in Florida's foster care system already have been failed by their parents. The last thing these kids need is to be failed by bureaucracy, too, and yet that's exactly what appears to be happening because of a needlessly rigid funding formula set up by the Florida Legislature. Child welfare agencies …

    The Legislature may have had good intentions when it came up with the funding plan, but it’s obvious that there is some unfairness built into it. The funding may be complicated, but the goal is simple: Making sure every child in need gets the help he or she needs.
  4. After Charlottesville, Judy Genshaft asks USF to "stand together with open minds and open hearts"


    TAMPA — In a welcome letter celebrating the start of a new academic year, University of South Florida System President Judy Genshaft took a moment to reflect on last weekend's violence in Charlottesville and asked students to unite with "open minds and open hearts."

    USF president Judy Genshaft posed with graduate Matt Jackson in 2015.
  5. Police: Man arrested in Largo had thousands of child pornography files


    LARGO — A 43-year-old man was arrested Wednesday after detectives found thousands of child pornography images and videos on his laptop.

    Tyrone Jeffrey Russell, 43, was arrested Wednesday on child pornography charges, according to Largo police. [Pinellas County Jail]