Ask Joe: Viewer billed $200 for false burglar alarm

Reported by: Joe Hart
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Updated: 9/23/2013 6:56 pm
Question:
A viewer named Grant who I bumped into this weekend said his burglar alarm went off in the middle of the night recently.  He called the Washoe County Sheriff and the deputies who responded found no signs of a break-in.   The next thing Grant knew he was getting billed $200 for a false alarm.  He wants to know if this is correct since he thinks there might have been someone actually trying to break in to his house.

Answer:
I checked with Bob Harmon at the Washoe County Sheriff's Office since they are the ones who responded in this case.  Harmon says that is correct. If they come out and there is no break-in, then yes, you get billed for a false alarm.   $200 if it comes in to dispatch as an urgent call.
This was a plan that was adopted in recent years because of the costs to the city and county to respond to a growing number of false alarms.
Now you can appeal if you think you're being billed unfairly or incorrectly.   I asked Bob Harmon how many residents have received refunds after filing an appeal. He didn't have the numbers but he says a small percentage of people have received refunds.  In fact one of my colleagues here at the station says he got a refund.  Harmon  says each case is unique and if you think yours deserves a closer look you should fee free to file an appeal.  You will probably need to show some proof that it was not a false alarm, but it will be reviewed by an administrator at the sheriff's office.

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3 Comment(s)
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Here are the most recent story comments.View All

k1944 - 9/24/2013 12:08 PM
0 Votes
Seems a little ridiculous for "a first time offender". Other municipalities have similar laws but only for repeat offenders such as those owning faulty alarms.

Kairos - 9/23/2013 9:10 PM
1 Vote
So as well as paying $12 a year to ATB Services so Washoe County can reduce false alarms somehow, we will pay $200 for a first incident? Sounds like we are being protected from the wrong crooks.

Debski - 9/23/2013 8:31 PM
0 Votes
When you are sleeping, awakened and scared, it takes time to determine if that sound in the middle of the night is an attempted break in. If you know you could be billed $200 if it's not, you might investigate the sound to make sure and really put yourself in harms way, if it is. At least they have an appeal process, but it is probably more trouble than it's worth. For obvious bogus calls the person should be charged. I'd be curious how much has been collected since this policy was implemented, which would also give an idea of how many nuisance calls are received.
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