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Suffolk Legislature Enacts Security Alarm Registration Law

DSCN4155sm• Story by Barbara LaMonica

The Suffolk County Legislature passed a law requiring homeowners and merchants to register their security alarm systems with the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD). Following introduction of the law on November 17, 2015 and a public hearing in December, the law took effect April 1. Failure to register security systems with the Suffolk County Police Department will result in penalties for parties who do not adhere to the law. While the majority of the legislature endorses the legislation, some residents are questioning the reason for having to pay to register their systems when they have had no false alarms.
In an interview this week, Suffolk County Deputy Presiding Officer Rob Calarco outlined the genesis for creating legislation he feels will put a lid on the number of false alarms. “The police department was seeking to develop a system to decrease the large number of false alarms which have been increasing and resulting in a burden of (law enforcement’s) time and resources that should be directed on emergency calls,” Calarco said in an interview this week. According to statistics released by the county, an estimated 90,000 false alarms were reported in 2014.
From a fiscal standpoint, Calarco said the county is projecting the new program will garner an additional $7 million for 2016 resulting from registrations and fines which will be funneled into the SCPD’s Alarm Management Program budget.
But the new legislation has some county residents questioning the creating of the new law. “People are trying to protect themselves, and now the county is hitting the very people they’re trying to protect,” said Frank Trotta, lifelong county resident and publisher of 50 + Lifestyles. Calling the new law “a money grab,” Trotta continued, “I get it – Suffolk County needs the money. But our businesses are getting burnt and our seniors are getting burnt; these are false alarms, and they should be targeting repeat offenders and get these people – not our senior citizens who are finding it hard enough to make ends meet.”
One senior citizen who opted for anonymity, owns a home security system for the past 27 years and said she learned about the new law through a small insert in her March bill that she received from her home security system company. Of the dozens of friends, acquaintances and business professionals she has spoken with, less than one handful had received correspondence from the county notifying them of the new charge. “I received no literature from Suffolk County or the police department saying that I now have to register and pay a fee for this security system I have had for 27 years,” the 50-plus year Suffolk County resident said. “I am not happy that I didn’t get anything in the mail telling me about this charge, and I am (livid) because they went about it the wrong way.” She maintains lawmakers should “go after the people who have continuous false alarms.” Asked whether she will be paying her bill, the Hauppauge resident responded: “I really don’t know what I will do. I pay for my service to my security system company. Why,” she asked, “do I now have to pay Suffolk County police?”
“There have been so many false alarms so police are not exactly rushing to these calls, and people have been complaining about the response time,” Calarco said. “These calls had not been seen as a priority which is a consequence of the situation.” Calarco said Nassau County and Suffolk’s five east end townships, which have their own police departments, have implemented successful alarm system registration laws. “Homeowners have to make a choice to participate,” Calarco said. “They can register and they would be allowed two false alarms in one year (before being imposed a penalty). Conversely,” Calarco added, “if you do not register and you do get false alarms you will get fined on the first false alarm.” Calarco noted advanced camera technology allows for businesses and homeowners to view their properties from any location to determine whether the alarm is inadvertently sounded in contrast to an actual break-in. “The owner would then notify their alarm company and tell them not to trigger the alarm (to central station),” Calarco explained.
Meanwhile, Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning, who will be meeting with the industry and constituents to examine the pros and cons of the legislation as written, is seeking to amend the new law to ease its implementation. “Some residents are questioning the law,” Calarco confirmed, noting that over the coming months county lawmakers will be evaluating the program’s inaugural year of implementation.
Trotta asserts a compromise should be reached: “Between the economy, pensions and social security, our seniors are struggling and it seems the county is hitting the very people they should be looking to protect.” Noting there should be amendments to the legislation, Trotta stated, “There should be provisions within the law where if someone is a three-time offender their fines should be doubled and where extra money is continued to be imposed on repeat offenders. And,” Trotta added, “The law should be written in a way that it allows cops to write tickets at the scene.”
According to the law, penalties will be imposed as follows: Residents are being charged a $50 registration fee with $25 annual renewals. Non-residential structures will be charged $100 registration fees with $50 annual renewals. Residents and merchants who are registered will not be fined for the first two false alarms in a calendar year, and will receive written warnings only. Residents and merchants who are not registered will be fined for the first false alarm. For third false alarms residents will be fined $100 and businesses will be fined $150, both increasing to $500 by the tenth false alarm.
Residents who fail to comply with the law and register their security systems will be fined $100 on the first false alarm increasing by $50 increments for each subsequent false alarm. Non-residential buildings which are not registered will receive a $200 fine on the first false alarm and will reach $750 by the ninth and tenth years.

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