Aiming to put a cap on a nuisance, Sandusky police officials say the city ordinance against repeat false alarms will be strictly enforced starting Jan. 1.
The law was enacted in 2004, but because of staffing issues the enforcement has not been a top priority this year, Lt. Phil Frost said.
This year alone, police were called to 672 alarms.
"We take alarms seriously," Frost said.
Officers who go to alarm calls often respond in a hurried manner, expecting to come across a burglary in process. A false alarm can put officers and citizens on the road in unnecessary danger, Frost said.
The first two false alarms at a residence or business will be "freebies." After that people will have to start paying, and if necessary face criminal charges.
That includes misuse of 911, which is a misdemeanor charge.
Alarms that are activated by power outages, for example, will not be held against residents, Frost said. However, alarms with faulty installation or alarms accidentally tripped by employees do count. If people call and tell police they accidentally set an alarm off, it will not only save an officer's trip but save the person on fines, Frost said.
"It's much better if they call right away so we're not going across town," he said.
At the Sandusky Fire Department, Chief Mike Meinzer said false alarms will be looked at on a case-by-case basis, a procedure already in effect.
The reasons behind a fire alarm going off can range from an actual fire, to burnt toast to sawdust being stirred up in a building, he said.
"I don't want people disconnecting their smoke detectors," Meinzer said. "I kind of weight it with a little discretion."
That discretion could mean civil penalty if deemed necessary. Meinzer said fire alarms have not been a nuisance lately.
People who had false alarms go off in the past year are being notified by police of the enforcement through mail. The false alarm count will be reset each year.
Repeat false alarm penalties
First false alarm -- warning
Second -- warning
Third -- $35 fine
Fourth -- $50 fine
Fifth or more -- $100 fine per occurrence
Source: Sandusky Police