Cod­ing er­rors prompt city to drop $ 700 charge

Manteca Bulletin - - Local -

The City of Man­teca Tues­day de­ter­mined cod­ing er­rors led to Ja­nis Mu­sic in down­town Man­teca be­ing er­ro­neously billed $700 for a se­ries of “false alarms” when ac­tu­ally there was crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity in­volved.

While the city quickly cor­rected the error, the grum­blings about the city’s alarm pol­icy may not go away any­time soon.

Crit­ics have is­sues with the an­nual re­quire­ment to up­date alarm in­for­ma­tion — a crit­i­cal com­po­nent to al­low Man­teca Po­lice to have cur­rent con­tact in­for­ma­tion when an alarm goes off — while oth­ers have been unhappy with how billing dis­putes over false alarms have been han­dled in the past.

The rea­son the false alarm pol­icy and fine pro­ce­dure ex­ists is sim­ple. Back in 2008, Man­teca Po­lice re­sponded to 3,527 res­i­den­tial bur­glary alarms. Me­chan­i­cal fail­ure or owner error ac­counted for 98.7 per­cent of those calls and not crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

Each alarm re­sponse took an av­er­age of 18 min­utes to re­spond, check the struc­ture and con­tact the owner. Due to the na­ture of the calls it re­quires two of­fi­cers. Man­teca Po­lice de­voted 2,116 hours in 2008 re­spond­ing to false alarms that took re­sources away from other calls as well as re­duced proac­tive pa­trolling.

In­stead of fol­low­ing the lead of some cities that ad­dressed the prob­lem by not hav­ing po­lice re­spond to bur­glar alarms that are a con­tract be­tween the alarm firm and the cus­tomers and not with any ju­ris­dic­tion, the Man­teca City Coun­cil took a dif­fer­ent path. They opted to re­vamp Man­teca’s or­di­nance deal­ing with false alarms.

The rules put in place in 2009 lim­ited false alarms to two a year and not two a month. There is no charge for the first two re­sponses. The third false re­sponse is $100, the fourth re­sponse is $200, and the fifth is $400 within a des­ig­nated pe­riod.

In the fis­cal year that ended June 30, 2016, Man­teca billed $117,600 for false alarms. The pre­vi­ous three year av­er­age was $121,900. All money col­lected goes into the city’s gen­eral fund.

The alarm per­mit comes with de­tails on the owner’s re­spon­si­bil­ity and city poli­cies plus pro­vides po­lice with con­tact in­for­ma­tion. There is no charge for the per­mit or to re­new the in­for­ma­tion an­nu­ally as the or­di­nance re­quires. Alarm per­mits ex­pire on Dec. 31 of each year and must be re­newed by no later than Jan. 31.

Be­fore the or­di­nance was up­dated in 2009 there was no charge for not hav­ing an alarm per­mit or for the owner fail­ing to re­spond. The or­di­nance now in ef­fect charges $200 for no alarm per­mit and $100 if the owner fails to re­spond.

Al­though some com­plained to city of­fi­cials at the time that is was sim­ply a tac­tic to try and bal­ance the mu­nic­i­pal bud­get, that wasn’t the case.

It wasn’t as much about rais­ing rev­enue – which was used as the stick to force com­pli­ance – as it was to free up lim­ited re­sources.

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