Sandy Springs’ city council gave alarm companies until Tuesday to pay outstanding fines, or they would no longer answer their calls. AJC FILE PHOTO

Sandy Springs beginning to collect alarm company fines ahead of ban

Eight alarm companies that operate in Sandy Springs have paid the city more than $8,000 in fines following a threat that police there would stop responding to those companies’ calls if the money was not paid.

But there are still 31 other businesses whose customers may find their contracts worthless if fines are not paid by the close of business Tuesday. Even in refusing to respond to burglar alarms from a number of companies, the city will still respond to fire alarms, duress calls, panic buttons and direct calls to 911.

Protection One and Comcast/Xfinity both came into compliance Thursday with a Sandy Springs law, passed last year, that charges companies — not residents — for false alarms. Callaway Security & Sound paid Friday, as did Phoenix Systems, AFA Protective Systems, Owen Security Solutions and Sunbelt Technology. Stanley Security Solutions made a partial payment. (Most of the Friday payments came to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after the deadline for the print newspaper had passed.)

A spokesperson for Comcast/Xfinity, Alex Horwitz, said in an email he was “not at liberty” to comment on how much the company paid in fines, or why the fines hadn’t been paid for more than 90 days.

“(It’s) important also for our customers to know that they will continue to be supported throughout this,” Horwitz said.

Protection One is part of ADT, and Don Young, the company’s chief information officer, said in a statement that studies have shown fining alarm companies does not have an impact on reducing false alarms. He said the Sandy Springs ordinance won’t change customer behavior, and could have a detrimental effect on public safety.

Alarm companies and their trade organization filed suit in federal court last month, claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional. Sandy Springs escalated the disagreement this week by revoking the registration of dozens of companies that had not paid, and making it clear that the city would no longer respond to burglar alarms generated by those companies.

Residents, posting on the Sandy Springs Facebook page, were furious: at the city for rendering their alarm systems potentially useless, and at the companies for failing to pay the fines. They accused the city of giving potential thieves free rein to target homes there, knowing that calls would not be answered.

“Thanks for telling criminals where it’s safe to go!” one resident posted.

Sharon Kraun, a spokesperson for Sandy Springs, said fewer than 20 percent of households in the 105,000-person city use private alarm systems. She said in 2017, Sandy Springs received 9,802 calls from alarm companies; at least 97 percent of them were false alarms. In the first three months of 2018, 99 percent of the alarms received were false alarms, Kraun said.

The city charges $25 for the first false alarm, $250 each for the second and third and $500 for the fourth and higher. Brookhaven is the only other government in the metro area that charges alarm companies, not customers, for false alarms.

Ken DeSimone, Sandy Springs’ police chief, said at a Tuesday council meeting that companies had been fined about $475,000 by the city since the ordinance was implemented. At that point, only $156,000 had been paid.

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The following companies have until the end of the day Tuesday to pay fines they owe Sandy Springs: Ackerman, ADT, Protection Concepts, Sonitrol, Actio Alarm, SimplexGrinnell, Strong Security, Tyco Integra, Safecom Security, Nationwide, Paragon System, Stanley Security Solutions, Mid South Security, Security Sal, Rock Solid Security, Safe Home Security, Banner Security, Nichols Security, Convergint Technologies, Live Watch, New Georgia, Consumer Security, Safe Security, Ede Systems, Alarm Force, Interlink Co., Security Cen, Twelve & Assoc., RTA Security, Hometronics, Atlanta Alarm and Patterson Security.

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The Story So Far

Sandy Springs altered its city code in July 2017, making it so security companies – not the residents who use their services – would be fined for false alarms.

Last fall, Sandy Springs began fining companies for false alarms.

On March 12, two organizations representing security companies, as well as two companies that had been fined by the city, filed a joint federal lawsuit against Sandy Springs, claiming that the ordinance was unconstitutional.

At a city council meeting on April 2, city leaders decided to revoke the registrations of 39 security companies for unpaid fines and said police would not respond to homes using those services for intrusion alarms.

As of Friday, three companies had paid fines: Comcast/Xfinity, Callaway and ADT’s Protection One.

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