WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The number of 911 calls that turn out to be non-emergencies is dropping in Wilmington.
Since the city began enforcing a $50 fee for false alarms, the overall number of alerts from security systems has dropped, according to Deputy Chief Marshall Williamson with Wilmington Police Department. Williamson said the approximately 9,000 alarm calls this year is significantly less than the 12,000-14,000 responses needed in 2010.
"About 98% of those are false alarms," said Williamson.
That many false alarms at $50 a piece has the city collecting $85,170 since July 1, 2011. That amount could be higher, because it only accounts for an 85% collection rate for fire-related penalties and an 83% rate for law enforcement ones.
City records show that there are currently three businesses that owe $600 in false alarm fees.
A spokesperson for Duke's Tire told WECT.com that the company had a faulty alarm system that has since been corrected. The company reached out to the city to see if they can get the fees waived, but have not heard back yet.
A call to Evergreen Behavioral Services was not returned by the time of this report.
The owner of Howard's Seafood said WECT.com's mention of the outstanding penalties was the first he learned about them. He said he's received notice from the city about his false alarm incidents, but nothing about a dollar amount.
Whether the money is collected or not, Deputy Chief Williamson said the shrinking number of false alarm calls has a positive effect on local law enforcement and fire response.
"It frees the officers up to do other things that can improve and enhance the quality of life for the citizens here in Wilmington," said Williamson.
New Hanover County
Looking beyond city limits, New Hanover County does not issue fines for false alarm calls. The county does not have a problem with a high number of calls, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Fire Chief Donnie Hall said he does not see a need for a similar penalty for county fire, because there is not a need for it right now.
"We don't want to discourage anyone for having an alarm system that will keep them safe," said Hall.
He added that any intentional or criminal false alarms can be fined through the fire code.
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