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8-10-20 – Reporter Newspapers

Plaintiffs appeal federal court ruling upholding Sandy Springs’ alarm ordinance. A ruling upholding the city of Sandy Springs’ alarm ordinance by a three-judge panel of the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been appealed by the plaintiffs.

A ruling upholding the city of Sandy Springs’ alarm ordinance by a three-judge panel of the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has been appealed by the plaintiffs.

The Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association (GELSSA), A-Com Security Co. and Safecom Security Solutions filed a petition asking for a rehearing before the full court over the 2017 ordinance that fines alarm companies up to $500 when customers trigger false alarms, a news release said.

The fines are imposed despite no “responsible relation” between the plaintiffs and the conduct of their customers, who are the alarm users who trigger the false alarms, the news release said.

“Imposing a fine on the alarm companies is rationally related to the City’s strong interests in reducing the number of false alarms that heavily burden its police and fire departments and waste public resources,” Judges R. Lanier Anderson III, Stanley Marcus and Barbara J. Rothstein said in their ruling on July 17.

The plaintiffs’ petition said alarm companies do not get a hearing before being fined, the release said. That violates their due process rights under federal and state law, the petition claims.

The city said it believes the ordinance will survive the appeal.

“We have confidence that the judges panel will agree with the rulings of both the U.S. District Court and Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals finding that the city’s ordinance is ‘rationally related to the city’s strong interests in reducing the number of false alarms that heavily burden its police and fire departments and wastes public resources,’” city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said.

“This case raises an issue that potentially could impact numerous businesses,” Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), said in the release. “The ruling makes it far too easy for a government entity to hold a business responsible for the actions of its customers even if the business does not have a responsible relationship with the customer’s conduct.

Martin said the city chose expensive litigation when no proof has been shown that fining alarm companies is more effective than fining alarm customers.

“The city could have achieved its goal of reducing alarm responses without expensive litigation,” Martin said in the release.

U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg dismissed the original complaint in December 2018, but the plaintiffs appealed her decision.

The city’s first alarm ordinance, adopted in 2012, fined alarm users to reduce the number of false alarm calls into the 911 Center. The city said false alarm calls tied up valuable public safety resources both in the 911 Center as well as Public Safety personnel required to follow up on those false calls.

In 2016, the 974 false fire alarms cost the city approximately $657,450, the ruling reported. A total of 9,292 false police alarm calls that year cost Sandy Springs approximately $117,943.

False alarm calls still averaged 10,000 per year when City Council revised the ordinance In 2017. Fines were placed on alarm companies instead of property owners since the alarm company places the call to 911 requesting public safety dispatch, the panel’s ruling said.