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Sheriff’s Corner: Home security alarms can help deter crime

Currently, Cass County has approximately 2,000 alarm permits registered in the county. There is a $20 yearly fee for an alarm permit and annual billings are sent out the first week in September. Alarm permits are valid for one year from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31.

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch
Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch
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During the month of September, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office processes its yearly alarm permit renewals. While over the years technology and smart phone apps have changed the alarm usage, we still have many monitored alarm systems and respond to dozens of alarm calls, mostly false, per year.

Cass County has had an alarm ordinance since April 12, 1988. The ordinance was enacted as our office responds to hundreds of false alarms each year, which places additional time and resource demands on the Sheriff’s Office. These many false alarms also create an increased level of risks for the safety of the responding officer. Therefore, the justification of this ordinance is to reduce the high level of risks and expenses, by reducing the frequency of occurrence of these false alarms.

Currently, Cass County has approximately 2,000 alarm permits registered in the county. There is a $20 yearly fee for an alarm permit and annual billings are sent out the first week in September. Alarm permits are valid for one year from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31.

An alarm account user is allowed two free false alarms a year. On the third false alarm, we charge $25. Every false alarm after that will go up in $25 increments. The maximum penalty is $200 per violation. “Any false alarms over 6 per license year shall be considered excessive and shall result in the suspension of the user’s alarm permit, and the said Sheriff’s Office shall no longer respond officers to the alarm location until such time as the alarm system has been repaired, modified, or maintained to remedy the problems with the system,” the ordinance states. Thankfully, these measures rarely need to be taken, as home and business owners are courteous in fixing the alarm problems as soon as they occur and are notified of the situation. If the deputy gets canceled before arriving, it does not count as a false alarm.

Having an alarm provides additional security to home and business owners. Alarms will not stop someone from entering your home, but it can be a deterrent for burglars, especially when they see a sticker on your door or window stating the alarm is present. Having an audible alarm can also be a deterrent to burglars, often scaring them away when the alarm sounds.

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When an alarm goes off, the monitoring center that is chosen by your local security installation company, calls into the 911 Dispatch Center to alert us of the alarm. We gather information such as the address of the alarm, property owner’s name and where exactly the alarm is coming from. We also find out if any local key holders are responding and other specific information about the property. Deputies are then dispatched to the address of the alarm to assess the situation. Nine out of 10 times, it turns out to be a false alarm. False alarms are often caused by power outages, animals in the home or business, faulty sensors, environmental conditions or simply someone entering a wrong code. Often, the alarm company will cancel our response if the code gets put in properly.

If our office does respond to an alarm, we will check the residence or business first from the exterior to determine if any entry was made. We will do a perimeter check, ensuring that windows and doors are intact. If we do find an open door or window, we will check the building to make sure that no one is inside. If you have an alarm on a seasonal cabin or building or even a permanent residence, it is important to have a local key holder that can also respond to ensure that the building can be locked back up properly, and reset the alarm when the deputy leaves. We are sometimes able to help secure the door or window that may have been causing the problem in a false alarm situation but ensuring that someone locks and resets the alarm will ensure the safety and security of your property. We respond to several alarms that do not have a local key holder or contact. From our vantage point on the outside of the residence, it may appear that everything is secure or normal, but there could be problems on the inside such as mechanical or plumbing issues that need to be addressed.

If you have an alarm system but do not have a permit or have changed your monitoring service or are now self-monitoring, please update your alarm file with our office. For questions on obtaining an alarm permit, contact Shanna Conner at 218-547-1424 or shanna.conner@casscountymn.gov.

Contact information, instructions and the forms for registering your alarm are available on the Sheriff’s Office website at www.casscountymn.gov.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: By email at tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us ; by phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677; or by mail or in person at the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN, 56484.

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