In 2010, Horry County Police logged more than 14,400 false alarms from businesses and homes and two years later, as county officials tried to institute a prevention program, that number grew by nearly 1,000.
False alarms, the county’s No. 1 call for service, are a waste of time, resources and money, said Paul Whitten, the county’s assistant administrator for public safety.
Two years ago, the county tried to institute a false alarm reduction program, where a person or company would receive a written notice after the second time an alarm was activated without there being an emergency. On the third false alarm, a fine of $150 would be implemented, Whitten said.
County officials said various roadblocks since 2010 had delayed the start of an alarm reduction program, but it finally was launched around February this year, and since then has led to 511 letters being sent out and more than $12,000 in fines being collected.
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“I feel, anecdotally, we’re getting the results we’re looking for,” he said, “and I think it’s going to really improve.” Whitten could not provide actual figures on Thursday to indicate what impact the program is having on the false alarms.
The county is working with Public Safety Corp., a Maryland-based company that uses a patented software program called CryWolf, which tracks false alarms, processes invoices, and collects payment for jurisdictions of all sizes, according to its website.
According to the company’s website, CryWolf false alarm management solutions have helped hundreds of agencies reduce false alarms, increase fee and fine collections, and streamline false alarm administration.
The county pulls data on the false alarm calls nightly and sends the information to Public Safety Corp. to process it. Whitten said it’s taken more than two years to get all county and the company’s systems to work together.
“We had a couple glitches. We had a little bit of lag when we started,” Whitten said, adding that software and banking issues caused the delay. But he said the program has been up and running since February.
It’s not about money, Whitten said. In fact, he said he’s had calls from companies working on alarm systems saying there may be several trips of an alarm, but they are not emergencies. In those cases, he said, a business or individual will not get a fine.
“I’m not charging [the resident] because he’s doing what I want him to do, which is fix the system,” Whitten said.
He said the calls had simply become a burden to the police and fire departments.
“If you think about it, that’s 15,000 times a year,” Whitten said. “That’s a lot of time that an officer is not in service, he’s responding to a call that’s not critical and I want to reduce that.”
Programs similar to what the county has begun have reduced false alarms in other counties by 50 percent to 60 percent within the first year, Whitten said.