Saint John police to start billing businesses if too many false alarms go out

The false alarm reduction policy applies only to businesses. Residences, schools and hospitals are not included. (CBC - image credit)
The false alarm reduction policy applies only to businesses. Residences, schools and hospitals are not included. (CBC - image credit)

With more than 2,000 false alarms a year and an upward trend in 2022, Saint John police thought something needed to change.

False alarms divert officers from true emergencies and "place unnecessary burden on our resources," said Sean Rocca, a staff sergeant and spokesperson for the Saint John Police Force.

In an attempt to curb false alarms, mostly security alarms from businesses, the force has adopted a new policy starting Nov. 1 that will penalize businesses that can't get control of the problem.

Seventy per cent of the false alarms police receive come from businesses, so the policy is aimed at them. It does not apply to residences, schools and hospitals.

How does the policy work?

The policy says that after two false alarms from a business during one calendar year, a caution notice will be issued.

After four in the same calendar year, police will issue the business a suspension notice.

Under the suspension notice, $100 will be invoiced to the business for every additional false alarm during that suspension period.

If three invoices are issued in this time and not paid on time, police response will be discontinued.

CBC
CBC

Rocca said the force feels the policy is "fair and equitable," since it does allow for a number of false alarms before police response is discontinued.

He said if a business does get three invoices issued in its suspension period, as long as the bill is paid, police response to their business will remain. The policy also has an appeal process, said Rocca.

"We feel that it's a good balance between providing a service to the business owners in Saint John, but also trying to eliminate unnecessary police response," he said.

CBC
CBC

He said the policy doesn't apply to hold-up alarms, which are silent alarms that need to be manually activated and are often meant to alert police to a robbery that's in progress.

Rocca said the Saint John Police consulted with other police agencies during the development of this policy since it is something that exists in other areas.

What can businesses do to prevent false alarms?

Often police sent to the scene can't figure out what set off a false alarm, said Rocca, so business owners should check their alarm systems to make sure they're in good, working order.

He said if businesses notice faulty equipment or issues with their security systems, they need to immediately address them to avoid potential false alarms.

Since the policy does allow for multiple false alarms before invoices or service suspensions are issued, Rocca said a  business that does experience a false alarm should follow up with its alarm company to see what can be done to prevent future false alarms.