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Higher false-alarm fees could start Aug. 1

Fees for false alarms could go up by the end of summer under an ordinance being considered by the Wichita City Council.

Under the current system, users are given one free false alarm per year and face a charge of $40 for each subsequent false alarm.

The new ordinance would impose a graduated fee system starting Aug. 1. It would also create separate categories for calls police respond to and calls firefighters respond to.

Users would still get one false alarm at no charge, but for security calls, the second would cost $40 and the fee would reach $350 on the 10th call.

For false fire alarms, which cost about 10 times more to respond to than security alarms, the fee would be $100 on the second and $750 on the 10th.

The ordinance would also replace the one-time $10 registration fee with an annual $25 fee.

In 2008, more than 24,000 of the 25,000 calls generated by alarm systems were false alarms.

Wichitan Mike Gould missed the call from the security company when his alarm went off May 14 while he was at work. Police came to his house near downtown and found signs of forced entry, but nothing was missing from the home.

The city considers the call to be a false alarm, but Gould is appealing. Gould said he worries that the increased fees are just another way for the city to make money and that the false alarm designation is being applied too loosely.

"If they're going to do this (raise fees), they're going to need a more accurate system," he said.

Wichita Finance Director Kelly Carpenter said the fee changes are aimed more at changing the behavior of alarm system owners than making money.

The ordinance is expected to generate around $500,000 per year, while false alarm responses cost the city about $3 million annually.

Although some false alarms are inevitable, Carpenter said she hopes having to pay more for them will encourage users to learn how to operate their systems better and work to avoid false alarm calls.

The council meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the first floor of City Hall, 455 N. Main.

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