If you have a burglar alarm system, you could soon see your bill increase. That's because the City of Syracuse is considering enforcing legislation that would charge home and business owners with alarm systems $30 every year. As our Katie Gibas reports, while the measure hasn't passed yet, the discussion isn't over.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- False alarms are a significant problem for the Syracuse Police Department. Out of the nearly 10,000 burglar alarms police responded to last year, 75 percent were false alarms.
"It costs time. I mean, officers are out there anyway. But if you're waiting for a loud music or accident report or something like that and the officers are responding to a false alarm, that's time they could have been helping somebody out who really needed the police," said Richard Scoff, a Syracuse Police Lieutenant.
That's why the city administration and some common councilors support legislation that would require most individuals and businesses with alarm systems to pay $30 per year. City officials say the enforcement of the law would raise $360,000 annually and allow the city to update records.
"It's critical that we have accurate information about the individuals who have alarm systems. Getting a yearly update of who has the alarms, that would help us update our files. Also, we're always looking for places to raise new revenue. And this is one that has been on the books," said Beth Rougeux, the Syracuse Director of Administration.
The law was actually approved in 1995, but the city had no way to enforce it. They now want security companies to collect the fees and then pay the city. The original goal was to raise additional money to have extra police and fire personnel. But since that money would go into the city's general fund, there are no guarantees that it's going to do what it was expected to.
"It's just one more expense for businesses to have to pay. And for the alarm companies that operate in the City of Syracuse, it's a large burden for them to now bill this fee, collect it, remit it to the city," said Deborah Warner, the CenterState CEO Public Policy and Government Relations Vice President.
Pat Hogan, Syracuse Common Councilor, added, "Any time a citizen in the city wants to improve their property, protect their property, I don't think we should penalize them for it. The a level of anxiety in some of neighborhoods is pretty high about crime and concerns about public safety. And I think this is just a money grab by the city administration."
The burglar alarm fee was discussed extensively at the council's study session Monday. But in the end, at the regular meeting, it ended up being held but the discussion isn't over.
Deborah Warner from CenterState CEO says Onondaga County used to have an annual fee for burglar alarm systems but got rid of that in favor of fining those with repeat false alarms. She says that's the preferred option and addresses the real issue.
Security companies would also be fined for every fee they don't collect.