County Council seeks to silence lengthy alarms 6 days of 'whoop-whoop' at house prompts bill

January 02, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

In the 19 months since the burglar alarm in Jeffrey Klein's Randallstown home kept neighbors awake for six days -- as he vacationed in Asia -- things have returned to normal on his quiet street of townhouses.

"No one discusses it. I tried to go to the next community meeting. I asked to talk to people, to do something," the Towson psychologist said, recalling the incident. But once the alarm had been turned off, no one was interested.

Now the Baltimore County Council is set to vote on a proposed law that would make it easier for police to silence such long-sounding alarms. It also would make it illegal to leave an alarm sounding for more than two hours at night, or four hours during the day.

Dr. Klein's alarm sounded for six days during May 1994, while he tried repeatedly from abroad to find a way to allow authorities to enter his home and turn it off.

As his neighbors were driven to distraction, he tried to send his house key to Baltimore via air-freight.

The key never arrived.

Police finally got an employee of Dr. Klein's to agree to act as his agent, and the alarm wires were cut.

Frank Wilson, who lives across Waterwheel Square from Dr. Klein, said no one holds a grudge. "I can understand the man having an alarm," Mr. Wilson said. "I have one."

The difference, Mr. Wilson said, is that he leaves his house key and a phone number with a neighbor when he is away. He gives the neighbor the alarm's code, in case it goes off.

Dr. Klein said he thought his alarm would automatically shut off after 20 minutes. He has since changed alarms, he said, and now has one that can be turned off by phone "from anywhere in the world."

Joan Sheppard, a next-door neighbor who spent many hours in Owings Mills District Court trying to silence the "whoop-whoop-whoop" sound, declined to discuss the incident, or the proposed law.

The proposed law, which the council will consider at its meeting tonight, would make long-sounding alarms a criminal misdemeanor subject to a maximum fine of $1,000 for each offense.

Under the proposal, an alarm could not legally sound continuously for more than two hours between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., or more than four hours during the rest of the day.

"I'm all for it," Dr. Klein said about legislation.

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