Baltimore County police had expected the next County Council meeting to bring the prospect of relief from thousands of false burglar alarms -- but it turned out to be just one more false alarm.
Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder withdrew the police-written false-alarm bill Tuesday after a barrage of questions from other members, delaying action for at least a month.
"Let them get it right, and then bring it back," Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Randallstown Democrat, said Tuesday during the meeting at which Bartenfelder pulled the bill.
A revised proposal is likely to be introduced in September, with a council vote possible in October.
Last year, Baltimore County police answered 77,672 false alarms -- a tremendous waste of time, police say, but potentially dangerous if officers do not take them seriously. If no action is taken to solve the problem, the annual number of false alarms will reach 115,000 by 2003, police said.
Kamenetz and others say they also want to reduce false alarms but object to the bill's registration system for alarm owners and graduated system of fines.
"I have problems with the whole registration scheme," said Towson Republican Douglas B. Riley, who complained about creating a "whole big bureaucracy."
Louis L. DePazzo, a Dundalk Democrat, said, "I've got a gut feeling this isn't going to do it."
Yet the council approved money in May for the four jobs needed to run that bureaucracy during a vote on the police budget -- something Kamenetz said he didn't remember.
The new objections seem likely to reopen a debate over the best way to discourage false alarms: registration and graduated fines, or a 900 phone line with a $20 fee for each alarm call to police.
Under the graduated fine system, each customer, installer and alarm firm would have to register. A third false alarm during 12 months would result in a $50 fine. The fine for each false alarm after that would increase by $50, to a maximum of $1,000 per year.
After five false alarms, the county could seek a court injunction to require repair or disconnection of the alarm.
Administrative officer Robin Churchill and the police back the idea of registration and a fine. That system, they say, has cut false alarms in Montgomery County 24 percent in four years.
But Michael H. Davis, spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, said the 900-line proposal will be discussed anew with council members.
Kamenetz said he favors that solution, despite the opposition, because a 900 line "would keep the county out of it."
Police, however, argue that a 900 line hasn't been used anywhere in the nation, and alarm companies were so opposed they blocked such a line with a court order in Riverside, Calif., the one place the line has been tried.
The companies oppose 900 lines because they increase costs to customers and prompt disputes with customers over why the alarm sounded and who should pay the fee.
Maj. Kevin Sanzenbacker, the county Police Department's commander of administrative services and the point man on the alarm bill, and county Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan accepted blame for the delay on the proposed legislation. Sheridan said he spoke to each council member about the issue last spring, but neither he nor Sanzenbacker went back to the council after the police had prepared the bill.
Sanzenbacker says the 900-line idea was discarded because the policy might not reduce the number of false alarms.
Pub Date: 7/31/97