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With false alarms a ‘significant drain of police resources,’ Casper contemplating fines for failing to fix faulty systems

Officers respond to a call at a hotel on the 300 block of West F Street in Casper in February 2021. The call was reported to be a false alarm. (Trevor T. Trujillo, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Casper City Council’s preliminary review of liquor licenses holders during its work session on Tuesday, February 8 did not identify serious concerns about any specific liquor establishment in the city when it comes to alcohol-related problems in the community.

The discussion did, however, highlight a different problem that the city council may look to address — too many false security alarms going off at some businesses in the community.

Casper Police Department data included in a memo from Chief Keith McPheeters shows the number of total calls for police service to each liquor establishment in 2021 and breaks down these calls by type. Council member Steve Cathey said that he noticed in the data that some of the businesses had seen a significant number of “alarm security” calls in 2021.

McPheeters said that there is a concern among police department command level staff regarding establishments that have poorly installed alarm systems that lead to repeated false alarms. As the police department is required to respond when security system alarms go off, the police chief said that false alarms can be a “significant drain of police resources.”

With some businesses failing to fix faulty alarm systems, McPheeters said that police department command level staff would like to have more ability to deal with places that are “chronic offenders” in terms of repeated false alarms. He noted that not responding to a business that has a history of false alarms is not a solution as even a business with a faulty system may legitimately be in need of service on an occasion that the alarm system is triggered.

Vice Mayor Steve Freel asked McPheeters whether he thought the council should add the topic of false alarms and what can be done to address the problem to a future work session. McPheeters said that he could bring the council data regarding how much wasted staff time and wear and tear on vehicles responding to false alarms costs the police department and that he recommends the council add this as a topic for further discussion.

Cathey asked whether the problem of false alarms is limited to businesses or whether the police department deals with false alarms to residences as well.

McPheeters said that while there are false alarms that occur at residences, the bigger problem for the police department is apparently faulty alarm systems that lead to repeated false alarm calls at bigger stores. However, he noted that residences with alarm systems are also supposed to register and license those systems through the city and that he thinks rules for properly installing systems should apply to both businesses and residences alike.

Council member Bruce Knell asked whether the police department was proposing fining people or businesses for false alarm calls.

McPheeters said the police department recognizes that false alarms can be triggered for a number of reasons and that he isn’t proposing a harsh system of fines. He said that most law enforcement agencies that do impose fines for false alarms give people and businesses some leeway and don’t tend to impose fines except after repeated false alarms in a given year.

He said that other agencies impose fines on a scale with fines beginning after a certain number of false alarms and the cost of the fines increasing if false alarms continue without problems being addressed.

The city council agreed on Tuesday to add discussion of false alarms and what it could do to help prevent repeat false alarm calls to a future work session.

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