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Use of resources: Police responding to thousands of alarm calls that turn out to be false

GSPS reviewing false alarm response system after review shows 97% are false, says Chief Paul Pedersen
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(File)

Greater Sudbury Police may be getting out of the business of responding to calls for alarms. 

GSPS is conducting a review of the False Alarm Reduction program, and will examine current practices in response to residential and commercial alarms, fees associated with response, and an analysis of data around false alarm response.

Over the last three years, GSPS has averaged 4,123 service calls for alarms per year. Of those calls, 2,400 do not get dispatched as they are cancelled. However, of the remaining alarms to which officers respond, 97 per cent were false.

Today, there are 2,641 residential alarms, 1,224 commercial alarms, and 54 school board systems registered.

Greater Sudbury Police charges a registration fee for homes and businesses to be part of its system. A fee is also charged every time police are dispatched to a false alarm.

In 2019, $43,155 was collected for false alarms, while $47,512 was collected for alarm registrations

However, what's recovered annually doesn't come close to the cost of responding to those calls, said Sudbury Police Chief Paul Pedersen. 

Every alarm call is, at minimum, a two-officer response, Pedersen said, because officers never know what they're going to. While those two officers are busy with that call, they're not doing something else the community wants them to do.

“The board has given me direction to review our False Alarm Reduction program that, in essence, is a system of cost recovery for when we respond to false alarms,” Pedersen said. “We're looking at whether (our current system) is still appropriate, or whether we need another system with respect to the thousands of calls we go to every year.

“The question we need to ask is, at 97 per cent false alarms, what can we do to mitigate the opportunity loss associated with those calls,” Pedersen said. “We will be looking at all options, including practices by other services in other communities, and coming up with our best choice given our own budget restraints.”

The report will look at whether there is return on investment, what are the costs involved, and if those costs are something with which the Greater Sudbury Police Service can continue to burden the community, Pedersen said.