Dunwoody homeowners and businesses must register their burglar alarms with the city and pay fines after two false alarms under a new ordinance adopted recently by City Council.

The proposal drew sharp criticism from some council members who objected to a provision that police will not respond to an alarm if the owner is delinquent in paying false alarm fines.

Dunwoody police have backed the plan in an effort to reduce the number of false alarms received by the city. Checking false alarms takes police time and resources, officials say.

“We have a lean police staff level,” City Councilman Terry Nall said before the council voted to adopt the ordinance at its Jan. 28 meeting. “We need to keep officers on the streets to respond to 911 calls. This ordinance allows us to do that.”

The new law, approved by the council with a 5-2 vote, requires businesses to pay a $25 fee when they register their alarms. Homeowners must register, but are not charged a fee, city officials said. When alarm owners register their systems, they must provide the city with their names and address, and the names and phone numbers of two people who can respond to the premises within 30 minutes of an alarm.

Fines and fees established with Dunwoody’s new false alarm ordinance

  • Alarm permit fee (commercial users only): $25
  • Failure to register:$100
  • Violation of ordinance provisions:$100

False alarm fees

  • Third through fifth false alarm: $50
  • Sixth false alarm:$100
  • Seventh false alarm:$150
  • Eighth false alarm:$250
  • Ninth false alarm:$350
  • Tenth and subsequent false alarms:$500

Source: City of Dunwoody

Alarm owners will be fined after three false alarms within a year. “Three or more false alarms within a permit year is excessive, constitutes a public nuisance and shall be unlawful,” the ordinance says.

The ordinance sets out a schedule of fines, starting at $50 for the third false alarm and scaled up to $500 for the 10th and subsequent alarms.

City Councilman Denis Shortal and City Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch voted against the ordinance. They said they objected to the “no-response” provisions of the new law, which take effect if an alarm owner is delinquent for 60 days or more in paying a false-alarm fine.

That provision says police will respond to an alarm at a location with fines unpaid for more than 60 days when there is a “verifiable” crime being committed there. The provisions do not apply in the case of fire, hold-up or panic alarms, the ordinance says. And officials still will respond to 911 calls, city officials said.

“When you’re talking about alarms, I think there’s one case, that’s one case too many,” Shortal said. “I just don’t think a non-response clause fits in with the character of Dunwoody, Ga.”

But Mayor Mike Davis said the provision simply meant that an alarm owner who did not pay fines for false alarms simply would “lower himself to the level of his neighbor who doesn’t have an alarm. We’ll still respond to 911.”

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.