An­nual cost of $15 in­tro­duced in Jan­uary

StarMetro Calgary - - YOUR ESSENTIAL DAILY NEWS - Lu­cie ed­ward­son Metro | Cal­gary

Cal­gar­i­ans who use alarm sys­tems at their homes or busi­nesses might have had an un­ex­pected bill in their mail­boxes in the last eight months.

Janet Smith and her fam­ily have had an alarm sys­tem in their home for nearly a decade and have never been charged any­thing by the City of Cal­gary—so when they re­ceived a re­newal no­tice for $15 in the mail ear­lier this month they were con­fused.

“With­out no­tice to all of a sud­den get billed this $15 puts you off,” said Smith.

Ali­son Tur­geon, alarm co­or­di­na­tor for the Cal­gary Po­lice Ser­vice said although they didn’t send out a di­rect com­mu­ni­ca­tion to alarm premise own­ers within the city, they did an­nounce the new by­law and fee over so­cial me­dia, on­line and through the me­dia be­fore it was im­ple­mented in Jan­uary 2017. She said alarm com­pa­nies were also no­ti­fied.

Still, Tur­geon said they’ve re­ceived many con­fused phone calls about the fee—and are work­ing through the process with all call­ers.

In April 2016, Metro re­ported about other changes to the alarm ser­vice by­law after CPS said they re­spond to ap­prox­i­mately 45 alarm calls each day — 96 per cent of which are ul­ti­mately deemed a false alarm.

As of May 2016, Cal­gary 911 no longer dis­patches alarm calls where only one zone is ac­ti­vated and alarm agen­cies will be re­quired to con­tact two key hold­ers prior to con­tact­ing po­lice.

As of March 2017, CPS have also been charg­ing a false alarm penalty, start­ing at $75 and max­ing out at $675 over a 12-month pe­riod.

Ac­cord­ing to Tur­geon, after re­search and anal­y­sis was con­ducted by the city, they found that the fees brought Cal­gary in line with other ju­ris­dic­tions through­out North Amer­ica.

She said the func­tions and the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the alarm by­law ser­vices fall out­side of the typ­i­cal core polic­ing func­tions and the fee will help re­cover and off­set those costs.

Smith thinks this is just an­other cash grab.

“I mean, it’s not an ex­or­bi­tant sum of money, but it’s yet again an­other amount of money from us go­ing to cover their costs—and we don’t get any say in it,” she said.

“Taxes are in­creased and now we’re pay­ing the po­lice an­other way, too.”

Smith said she feels the by­law is tar­get­ing alarm users be­cause they can af­ford an alarm sys­tem.

“There­fore you can ap­par­ently af­ford this ad­di­tional charge. I think it’s tar­get­ing a cer­tain group of peo­ple for sure,” she said.

Tur­geon said it’s im­por­tant for alarm users to know that the po­lice will con­tinue to at­tend con­firmed crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity calls, pan­ics, holdups and any other public safety con­cerns.

“We’re not chang­ing that,” she said.

Taxes are in­creased and now we’re pay­ing the po­lice an­other way, too.

Janet Smith, home­owner

Metro Cal­gary

Those with home alarms will be charged $15 an­nu­ally by the CPS while com­mer­cial alarms will be charged $20 an­nu­ally by the CPS.

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