Contact 2: Alarm Ordinance

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If you`re paying for a security alarm system, you need to stay on top of permits and false alarm fees. If you`re not paying attention, you could find your home and your family unprotected. We talked to a South St. Louis woman after a second attempted break-in. Her high tech, high-end system left her vulnerable to thieves in her neighborhood.

Just the touch of a button brings comfort and security to Jennifer Hughes. Burglars have tried to get in twice according to homeowner Jennifer Hughes, "The first attempted break-in, my sensors did not go off because they were not able to open the door. When they kicked it in, it moved the whole door frame with the dry wall, away from the brick, so the drywall buckled."

Then there was another attempted break in. This time the alarm went off. Hughes and her fiancé were surprised to learn police were never dispatched, "I called the alarm company and saying that we did have a potential break in. Somebody threw a rock through our back window and they said that the police were not going to be able to dispatch because of excessive use."

After checking with police and St. Louis City Hall, Hughes learned that she had an outstanding bill for multiple false alarms. Until those fines are paid, police will not be dispatched by the alarm company. Many municipalities have similar ordinances. Depending on the circumstance, the cost could be assessed against the consumer or the alarm company.

Tony Drago of the Alarm Association of St. Louis explains, "The false alarms would be covered by the consumer if they caused it, and if there's a malfunction of the system then it may be covered by the alarm company."

Hughes says the false alarms happened so long ago, she thought she'd paid it. But it had been hanging out there since 2009.

In St. Louis, the ordinance allows you one false alarm over a 12-month period at no cost. The second brings a $25 fine, the third is $50 and the fourth is $50 plus police response is suspended for 30 days. If you have a fifth false alarm in a year's time you're looking at $100 fine.

Jennifer was shocked after talking with the alarm company, "At that time the woman explained to me she can see that my permit expired in 2009. So at that instant I felt very unsafe in my home. At that point I had spent a lot of money to beef up my security system and it's a glorified noise maker in my home."

Make sure your system provides optimum protection. Understand the alarm ordinance in your community. It's not the same everywhere. Never let your false alarm fees exceed the limit set by your elected officials. Understand where the responsibility lies for renewing the alarm permit. Do you do that or does the alarm company handle it? Finally, use caution when approached by door-to-door alarm salesmen.

Check with the Alarm Association of St. Louis if you have questions.

Call us with your consumer issues Monday through Thursday, from 11am till 1pm. The number is 800 782-2222.

A link to the Alarm Association is www.alarmstl.org or the number is 636 600-4770.

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