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Cruces beefs up alarm ordinance penalties

LAS CRUCES – It took a while, but the city’s alarm ordinance now has muscle.

If you violate the rules – overhauled in January to curb false alarms – officials can use the ordinance to squeeze your pocketbook.

That’s been only a threat since August, when a key prong of the city alarm ordinance legally took effect. During the subsequent months, officials have pieced together the alarm ordinance’s enforcement mechanisms and allowed for a grace period while Las Crucens sent in permit applications.

While the first fine hasn’t been mailed, Hugo Costa said, it’s only a matter of time.

“This week we’re going to be assessing the data,” said Costa, director of Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority, which contracted with the city to oversee enforcement of the alarm ordinance.

In the coming days, depending what the data reveals, MVRDA could be sending fine notices.

The beefed-up alarm ordinance allows the city to levy fines against alarm owners for two types of violations: 1) Racking up more than two false alarms in one year and 2) failing to register for a permit before a false alarm is reported.

Fines for repeated false alarms start at $100 and rise up to $300 if the problem continues. If no permit is in place, there are no “gimmes,” as Costa calls them. That alarm owner will be fined $100.

A false alarm, for the purpose of the ordinance, doesn’t mean accidental tripping of an alarm system. MVRDA, the county’s dispatch center, has to send authorities to the scene and they have to find there is no corresponding emergency.

The annual permit costs $25 for residential alarms and $50 for businesses. There is an appeal process, Costa said.

False alarms are a bane to emergency responders. In a presentation to City Council, officials reported police and fire officials responded to 8,846 alarm calls in 2011. About 99 percent of those calls turned out to be false alarms, which cost taxpayers within the city an estimated $400,000.


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