N4T Investigators: City of Tucson writes-off $260K in false-alar - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: City of Tucson writes-off $260K in false-alarm fines

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It has now been six years since Tucson leaders passed an ordinance fining some alarm owners for false alarms. The move was meant to help the city recover the cost of officers responding to non-crimes. But the News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to know – is that ordinance actually costing tax-payers more than it's worth?

“You've already paid for police and fire and emergency service in the taxes you've already paid,” Roger Score told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. Score spent nearly 35-years in the alarm business, and is no fan of the city's alarm ordinance that went into effect in April, 2012.

“There's not extra officers being called in to respond to your alarm, so there's no additional cost to the city,” Score told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Under the ordinance, registered alarm owners pay $20 annually, and the first false-alarm fine is waved. A second false alarm brings a $100 fine, which can also be waived if the alarm owner takes an alarm owner “awareness class.” Those who are not registered will also be billed for false alarms, with fines starting at $100. Business and homeowners may opt-out of registering, but then police will not respond to any unconfirmed burglary alarm. If they do respond, it could result in higher false alarm fines.

When the ordinance was passed, the city said one goal was to reduce the number of false alarms, so police are better able to respond to actual burglaries, and to help recover the costs of officers responding.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators did some digging, and found that between 2012 and 2015, the City of Tucson actually wrote-off more than $260,000 thousand dollars - money that was not collected.      

“Anytime you're going to do anything, no matter what it I, do your research and know what you're getting into. It's your responsibility as a consumer or business owner,” Cat Nickelsen, co-owner of Red Desert BBQ & Catering, told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. Red Desert opened last October near Prince and Fairview, and was burglarized just a few months later.       

“My brother, the pitmaster, David, came in to do the meats, and discovered that the smoker was gone, and that was a little devastating. That was his very first smoker in UA a blue, and it was gone,” Nikelsen told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. “So, after that we improved our security quite a bit,” Nikelsen said.

Despite surveillance video showing the theft of David’s smoker, it turns out the thieves weren't deterred, and returned to Red Desert again. However, this time was different.

“Since they couldn't take the smoker, they took all the meat in the smoker,” Nikelsen told the News 4 Tucson Investigators.

Red Desert has installed a third-party security system including cameras, and they have also registered their alarm with the city. That has helped give Cat and the other Red Desert owners a bit of peace of mind.

“I also like knowing that when that call goes in, TPD is going to be here, and I don't have a problem with that,” Nikelsen added.

The News 4 Tucson Investigators requested an on-camera interview with city officials to see if they think the alarm ordinance is paying off, but they didn't respond to our request.

If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to investigate email us at investigators@kvoa.com, call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444.

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