Last year, the city of Las Cruces received 7,735 calls from alarms, according to Lt. Kevin Renn. Renn said that of those calls, 7,679, or 99.2 percent, were false.
Police Chief Richard Williams told ABC-7 when an alarm call comes in, at least two officers are dispatched to the scene. With the vast majority of calls being false alarms, Williams said it's wasting valuable manpower and time.
"It prevents us from responding to emergencies, true emergencies, other than when someone's cat set off an alarm or someone accidentally set off an alarm," Williams said.
All the time spent on those calls adds up to a lot of wasted tax dollars.
"You're looking at well over $40 per hour. Multiply that out times 8,000, now you're getting into the thousands of dollars. Then you add in the false alarms that are called in to dispatch and those costs associated with this. This could be anywhere from ($300,000) to $500,000 easily," Williams said.
Lt. Renn said the fire department also responds to false alarms adding another $100,000 of wasted resources to bring the total to more than $400,000.
Now the city is proposing major changes to its alarm ordinance, a law that hasn't been updated in more than 20 years.
On Thursday, the city held a public hearing to collect input on the ordinance.
Representatives from several alarm companies showed up to hash out issues and concerns with proposed fines, fees and other details.
"There is absolutely a problem with false alarms and it needs to be addressed," Philip VanVeen, the general manager of local security company Eagle Security, told ABC-7.
The city is proposing that both alarm companies and their customers start paying for it.
"You get two false alarms in a year, and then after that, you start getting charged for these false alarms," Williams said.
As the proposed ordinance stands, customers would be charged $100 for the third false alarm, $200 for the fourth, and $300 for any false alarms after that. If a home or business reaches six false alarms in a year, that customer would be placed on the verified response list, which requires the alarm company to verify the emergency visually or through contact with someone at the property before emergency personnel will be dispatched.
On top of those fines, anyone with a monitored alarm would be required to pay an annual $25 registration fee for homes and $50 for businesses.
VanVeen said his company agrees with many parts of the ordinance, but is concerned about the city trying to make alarm companies collect the registration fees directly.
"By doing that, it changes our tax base. It changes not only the basic tax on it, but it can also change things like our worker's comp, which is based off of those levels of money coming in," VanVeen said.
Another major part of the ordinance is verifying all alarm calls by having the companies attempt to call customers at least twice to confirm an emergency, something Eagle Security has already been doing for years.
"We as an industry, as well as the city and the customers, all need to step up to the plate and help to solve the problem," VanVeen said.
The city hopes the changes will reduce the number of false alarm calls to free up officers for real emergencies and make the city safer.
They also said it is not a way to make money and proposed all fines and fees go directly to the 911 dispatch center to hire and pay for employees to run the program.
Another public hearing will be held in a few weeks. Then, the City Council could hold a work session to discuss before it actually votes any plan into action.