False alarms down with new bylaw

Willy VanHeugten and fellow members of the Norfolk Police Services Board heard the first appeal under Norfolk County’s new false alarm bylaw on June 24. That appeal was unsuccessful and the $200 fine stands. Monte Sonnenberg photo

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A new bylaw in Norfolk County is having the intended effect of reducing false alarms at local homes and businesses.

Norfolk’s Police Services Board urged the passage of the bylaw more than a year ago as a means of reducing the number of false alarms that police investigate. The bylaw came into effect March 1.

At the monthly meeting of the local PSB on June 24, board chair Dennis Travale said Norfolk OPP investigated 74 false alarms in March, April and May combined. This compares with an average of 66 false alarms a month prior to the bylaw’s passage.

The county has cracked down because checking in on faulty systems is not a good use of expensive police resources. False alarms take front-line officers out of their strategic locations in the field while occupying time that could be better spent investigating crime and promoting community safety.

The bylaw has generated nearly $15,000 in fine revenue to date. Travale wants Norfolk County to funnel this money into a special reserve account that the PSB can draw on for crime-fighting initiatives. He says this is only right, given that this is the PSB’s bylaw.

“I think it’s logical,” Travale said. “I think it makes sense. Let’s see where it goes.”

Delhi Coun. Mike Columbus, a council appointee to the PSB, suggested Norfolk council is unlikely to rubberstamp the request, adding it will require some discussion before the county decides how to respond.

Not everyone is pleased with the new bylaw. At last Wednesday’s meeting, the PSB entertained its first appeal of the $200 fine. It came from Robert Biddle of Port Dover, a resident of New Lakeshore Road.

Speaking from a remote location due to social-distancing requirements, Biddle told the PSB the alarm he was cited for in March was due to power surges and had nothing to do with the reliability of the system. The PSB disagreed, saying the bylaw cites power surges as an issue property owners have to guard against.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” said board member George Santos of Simcoe. “Unfortunately, this portion of the bylaw is not in favour of Mr. Biddle. And that definitely was a false alarm.”

Biddle told the board the surge provision in the bylaw was one reason for his appeal, adding he doesn’t agree with it.

“I think the whole board should sit down and revisit their bylaw,” Biddle said once the decision was rendered.

Property alarms malfunction for a host of reasons. These include improper installation, power surges, windstorms, pets and mice tripping sensors, and overly-sensitive electronics.

The PSB hopes the threat of automatic fines encourages property owners to fine-tune their systems so they are not a chronic nuisance to front-line officers.

 

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