North Fulton County

False alarms cost taxpayers $775K

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Plagued by false alarm calls that city officials say have tied up precious resources, Sandy Springs leaders are now going to hold alarm companies responsible for excessive calls.

Deputy Police Chief Keith Zgonc told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik that police and firefighters responded to 10,000 alarm calls last year, but 97 percent of them were false.

“We’re spending thousands of man-hours a year on these false alarms,” he said.

City officials estimated taxpayers lost about $775,000 on those false calls in 2016.


In 2012, the city passed an alarm ordinance that held customers responsible for the false alarm calls, and prescribed fines for excessive problems.

“It had effectiveness, but it wasn’t enough,” said Zgonc.

The change, approved Tuesday, removes the fine burden from homeowners and passes it to the alarm companies themselves.

Zgonc said the city ordinance is modeled after one in Seattle that he said reduced false alarms by nearly 50 percent.

“We want to see that the alarm companies are doing all they can to ensure their customers are registered, so we know how many alarm users we have in the city, and make sure their customers are properly trained on how to use their alarms,” said Zgonc.

Vince Raia, president of EMC Security, which monitors alarms for nearly 50,000 customers in Metro Atlanta, told Petchenik he agrees everyone needs to work together to reduce false alarms, but he doesn’t believe holding the alarm companies accountable is the answer.

“The concern we have with it, by charging the fee to the alarm company instead of the end user, is that going to be effective at reducing alarms?” he said.  “The jury is still out on whether that will reduce false alarms.”

Dan Gordon, president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association, told Petchenik that ultimately, the cost will be passed back to the consumer.  He said the city “blindsided” the security providers.

Gordon said city leaders told them they wanted zero false dispatches, which he said isn’t plausible.

“They’re in another world,” Gordon said of Sandy Springs leaders.  “There was never going to be any negotiating; never any balancing of this act.”