By editorial board • 

Fines justified for inaction on repeat false alarms

A false alarm ordinance in McMinnville appears likely to win approval in the near future. Councilors debated some of the details during a Tuesday work session, but were in general agreement that taking steps to reduce police response to faulty security alarms is a sound decision. 

As long as the proposed permitting and fine schedule serves to targets the more egregious offenders, and doesn’t penalize people or businesses for system malfunctions beyond their control, we don’t see any reason to oppose the move.

The proposal comes on the heels of a city ordinance authorizing fines for 911 care center calls deemed unfounded. But that was a unique ordinance enacted to address a strictly local problem. In contrast, ordinances targeting repeat alarm offenders are common among Oregon cities and counties. 

Councilors debated whether the proposed fine schedule was adequate, or if stricter measures should be implemented to ensure success. We think Sgt. Steve Macartney struck a fair balance when he suggested the city waive the first two offenses in a given year, assess fines of $50 and $75 for the next two, then sharply increase the penalty for the fifth violation.

Many ordinances start imposing $100 fines for a third offense. Others up the fine for a second offense.

By a fifth false alarm, a business or resident should take action designed to avoid burdening police resources from places where they are more needed.

Fines and permit fees can always be increased later if deemed necessary, but there’s no reason to begin with a heavy hand. We favor providing property owners enough leeway to deal with the inevitable malfunction requiring maintenance from a local vendor. 

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