Annual cost of $15 introduced in January
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
Those with home alarms will be charged $15 annually by the CPS while commercial alarms will be charged $20 annually by the CPS.