Changes to the alarm response policy have been blown out of proportion, said Mission RCMP Inspector Richard Konarski at a council Monday night.
Starting Jan. 1, the RCMP changed its criteria for responding to alarm calls from home and businesses in an attempt to cut down on wasted time and paper work. In 2011, more than 95 per cent of all alarm calls were false. In 2010, it was 97 per cent.
The inspector stressed that the RCMP will still respond, but only when a call can be verified through the alarm company, a property owner, neighbour or an another citizen reporting suspicious behaviour.
Police will also still respond to panic, two-way voice alarms, hold-up and school alarms.
He said one of the biggest issues is that most of the alarm company’s contact information with homeowners or tenants is out of date.
Considering false alarm calls take up about 10 per cent of the total file volume of the RCMP for a calendar year, he said the policy change makes economic sense.
“It’s a huge amount of wasted resources,” said Konarski, noting that the change falls in line with similar policies made in the Lower Mainland 18 years ago.
While downtown business owner Carlo Billinger understands the aim of the policy, he has some concerns with what constitutes a legitimate or verified call.
Billinger, a co-owner of Rex Cox Men’s Wear located in the heart of Mission’s downtown core, said just because the police may not find any evidence of a forcible break-in when they arrive doesn’t necessarily mean the call was false.
“Most of the business owners in the downtown have done our due diligence in trying to secure our shop,” he said. “So if the alarm goes off, there’s probably a good reason.”
Billinger said he has an issue with paying fines just because no one may be around when the police arrive.
Fines for a false alarm, over the course of a calendar year, are $50 for the first call, $75 for the second, $150 for the third, and $300 for the fourth and every call thereafter.
In 2012, the District of Mission issued fines totalling $16,500. The total has been dropping in recent years as people became more aware of the policy. In 2011, the total fines issue was $18,694 and in 2010 the total was $31,225.
Billinger said he believes more consultation should have been done between the RCMP and businesses in the downtown.
Ronda Cushnie, executive director of the Mission Downtown Business Association, said they support the RCMP’s policy change.
“We understand it was a difficult decision and not one they made lightly,” she said. Cushnie points out this type of policy change has happened in a number of other communities across the province and she said statistics indicate that crime rates haven’t increased. She said considering the high number of false calls the RCMP respond to, the change should benefit everyone involved.
She’s hoping the RCMP will be able to use the fines levied from unverified alarms can be used to help pay for more policing in Mission.
In addition, the RCMP and Community Policing will be working together to help citizens who have concerns with the policy change.