Police seek to charge for burglar alarm calls

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The police are to charge up to pounds 35 for answering burglar alarm calls to more than 800,000 homes and businesses, under proposals drawn up by chief constables.

They are also considering demanding an extra fee of between pounds 50 and pounds 100 to respond to alarms that have been blacklisted by the police because of continued false calls outs.

Although any new charges will be made to the alarm companies these will be passed on to homeowners and businesses. The extra cost in England and Wales could be more than pounds 28m.

Police chiefs are determined to levy charges for "remote signalling alarms" which are connected to their stations because the cost and time spent on answering calls, most of them false, is rapidly rising. Last year the number of signalling alarms increased by 9 per cent to about 800,000. Of the 1.2 million call-outs 1.1 million proved to be false.

The police also believe they are providing the security industry with a commercial service free of charge. However, the association that represents alarm manufactures and installers yesterday threatened to take legal action if costs were foisted on them without agreement.

A working party for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has been looking at the issue for the past 18 months and has formulated two main options they plan to introduce by the end of the year.

At present almost all signalling alarms - as opposed to devices that simply make a noise - are connected via a telephone system to central monitoring stations owned by the security installers. When the alarm is triggered the company makes checks before telephoning the police. Each alarm holder has its own dedicated reference number, provided by the police.

The police provide this service free, but they are now arguing that supplying a reference number and giving installers priority treatment are extra facilities and should be paid for.

The police working party's main proposal is for companies to pay for each line. According to the British Security Industry Association the cost has been put at a few pounds to pounds 35 a number. Any extra fees will be passed onto the consumer.

The second proposal is for a charge to be made for each call-out when a householder or business person has failed to mend an alarm which malfunctions. The BSI said proposals range from pounds 50 to pounds 100 a call.

In April forces in England and Wales introduced a National Alarm Policy under which anyone with eight false call-outs goes on a blacklist until the equipment is fixed. Under the new policy those with four to seven false alarms go on a "second division" list to be dealt with after all other priority calls.

Alan McInnes, secretary of ACPO's intruder alarm working party said: "The police have limited resources. We cannot charge for attending burglar alarm calls, but we are examining . . . how we can apply charges for the special administrative functions that we currently carry out."