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1.13.23 – CBS News

“I’m thinking like, I don’t have a burglar alarm or anything like that,” he said noting that they are just Ring cameras that only he monitors. ..

Is a home security camera an alarm? One viewer found out that the Sacramento Police Department thinks so after he received a $30 alarm permit for his home Ring cameras.

Ed Flores’ situation began in August when home surveillance cameras captured odd behavior outside his mom’s unoccupied home. An individual is clearly seen scoping the place out and then jumping over a fence into the backyard. 

Ed called the police department, which sent out officers, but the individual had already left. 

Shortly after, Ed received a bill from Sacramento police’s alarm unit for an Alarm User Permit Fee. 

“I’m thinking like, I don’t have a burglar alarm or anything like that,” he said noting that they are just Ring cameras that only he monitors. “It’s not an alarm system. It doesn’t alert them to their office or dispatch.” 

With the rise in popularity of home surveillance systems, CBS13 was wondering, are these cameras really alarms?

Sacramento police pointed to a state law defining an alarm as “an assembly of equipment and devices arranged to detect a hazard or signal the presence of an off-normal situation.”  

Using that definition, Sacramento city ordinances require a $30-a-year permit fee. 

But Rob Gabrielle, a home security expert with Safehome.org, doesn’t think people should be billed. 

“I feel that police departments aren’t in the right to be charging those fees,” he said, acknowledging that some things spotted on home cameras can generate more calls for officers to respond to. But Rob says that’s the job of law enforcement. 

Sacramento police say 97 percent of its alarm calls turn out to be false and tie up resources. 

CBS13 checked around and found that none of the police departments in Stockton, Modesto, Roseville, Elk Grove, Folsom, Davis or the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office consider Ring cameras as alarms. 

But how does the city even know who has these cameras?

A city official insists that no camera company is ratting out its users, writing to CBS13, “the police department is notified of an alarm system if police dispatch is requested for an alarm activation to a location with no permit on file.” 

Which, in this case, was Ed calling dispatch to report something he saw on his camera. 

But after CBS13 started asking questions, Sacramento’s city attorney and police department reviewed the policy and told us “beginning immediately, the Sacramento Police Department no longer considers video surveillance that is only self-monitored as part of its alarm ordinance…. Even though the video content can qualify under existing ordinance, the original intent of the law wasn’t meant for private self-monitored surveillance video.” 

That means that Ed won’t have to pay the fee for the camera system he says definitely isn’t an alarm. 

“I’m thinking it’s an extension of my eyes,” he said. “That’s it.” 

When CBS13 asked if any residents will be refunded their fees the police department said no because, technically, the cameras still fall under the statute