Nfld. & Labrador

False alarm security fees could add up fast, deter homeowners

A new fee will be charged to homeowners and businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador next year for false alarms triggered by their security system - something that could add up fast for the province.

RNC respond to 12,000 false security alarm calls a year on northeast Avalon alone

Dean Hickey, owner of Blue Shield Security in St. John's, says the new fee for false alarms activated through security systems may deter people from his business, but he hopes it will also better educate people on how to best use their alarms. (CBC)

A new fee will be charged to homeowners and businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador next year for false alarms triggered by their security system - something that could add up fast for the province.

The provincial government announced a new Alarm Management Fee to be launched in 2016 that would see alarm system owners charged $100 if police respond to a false alarm.

That fee will be $50 if the owner cancels the alarm before police arrive.

In St. John's, one of every five calls the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary responds to is an alarm system activation. That adds up to 12,000 calls a year — or one every 45 minutes.

Responding to those calls takes up a lot of resources, said Deputy Chief Ab Singleton, and with 99 per cent of those calls being false alarms, the police resources are going to waste.

RNC Dept. Chief Ab Singleton says the high volume of false alarms coming in from home systems takes up a significant amount of police resources. (CBC)

"It's a major issue because, of course, when you're taking your resources and deploying them to false alarm calls, we cannot undertake doing other, proactive policing initiatives," said Singleton.

Pushback on fee 'inevitable'

Similar false alarm fees already exist in other provinces. However, the owner of one alarm company in St. John's is worried people will respond by turning the systems off.

Dean Hickey, owner of Blue Shield Security, said he doesn't doubt the new fees will have an impact on business, but added it's an opportunity to ensure customers are better educated about their alarm systems.

"No one wants to hear that you're going to get fined, it's going to make some people sort of walking on eggshells sort of thing and [wondering] are we going to turn our alarm off or turn it on," said Hickey.

"It's a difficult slippery slope, but I think you have to look at the advantages as opposed to disadvantages."

The false alarm fees could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for the province.

However, Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Darin King said the new fee isn't about making money.

"I'm certain there's going to be pushback in some areas, because there always is when you put a fee in, no matter what it's for," said King.

"The primary focus here is not on collecting fees, it's actually on deterring false alarm calls and having people be a little more mindful, a little more responsible of their alarm systems and reduce the number of calls we're having to respond to. That's the primary aim here."

The fee will be in place for residences and businesses province-wide next year.

With files from Zach Goudie

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