Harris Co. deputies ask to ignore some burglar alarms

September 13, 2012 4:12:08 PM PDT
Harris County sheriff's deputies are asking for permission not to respond every time a burglar alarm goes off. They say they have been wasting time on too many false alarms, but they think they have a solution.

The HCSO says it all boils down to tens of thousands of false alarms each year, burglary alarms that tie up deputies and waste thousands of taxpayer dollars. So it's considering a big change, including reserving the right not to respond to some of those calls. But residents say, at what cost?

"I think they should come out no matter what," resident Gerard Martinez said.

Martinez says false alarm or not, if the burglary alarm in his house or others in his northeast Harris County neighborhood are going off, he believes sheriff's deputies should respond immediately.

"To alarm somebody that you are in distress -- that's the purpose of an alarm," he said.

Right now, every time a residential or commercial burglary alarm goes off a deputy responds right away. But Harris County sheriff's officials say the problem is most times it's a false alarm. In fact, the sheriff's office reports out of 79,000 burglary alarms last year, 99.5 percent were false alarms.

"This is diverting deputies on the street, preventing them from answering other calls for service and can endanger the public and prevent them from answering other calls," Harris County Sheriff's Office Maj. Robert Van Pelt said.

So sheriff's officials tell us they are now considering "reserving the right not to respond to burglary alarms that have not been verified by the alarm company and resident as a true emergency" or those 'sounding' alarms that have not been properly registered with the county as required.

"When you have such a high amount of false alarms and limited resources, as far as patrol deputies on the streets, you have to make the best use of your resources and this would do that and it would not compromise public safety," Van Pelt said.

For Martinez, the potential change is too risky.

"It could be deadly," he said.

This would not include panic, holdup, fire or EMS alarms. There's also a $75 fine after the fifth false alarm. They're considering moving that up to the third false alarm.


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