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No Cause For Alarm
By: Wayne Brown
signed the check for $50, placed it in the envelope addressed to the City Clerk, and shoved it in the mail. Once again, I have become the victim of yet another scheme of legalized government extortion. I have to call it that because they say I am misinformed when I attempt to refer to it as a tax. My apologies…I have yet to let you in on the subject that has me railing against the insanity. The check I mailed was sent to pay my annual fees to the local city government for the operation of an on-site alarm system in my residence. I guess in the most tender sense, I could refer to it as my membership dues in an elite organization…those who are able to afford a personal alarm. Already I am starting to feel a bit snobbish.
Officials of the local government have created a local ordinance requiring me to notify the city of the presence of an alarm system at my residence. The system must be registered with the city and those who fail to register and are caught are subject to a violation fine up to $500. For the most part, I am okay with those requirements. It’s the $50 annual fee that pisses me off. That is where the extortion comes into the equation. The local officials smile as they explain the merits of the justification so overwhelmingly past by our representatives on the city council. I love it when they try to blow smoke up your ass!
You see, they explain, the taxpayers of this fine city incur a financial burden each time one of the locals installs an alarm system and thus a fee must be charged to offset these costs. Now, wait a minute. Somewhere along the line I got the impression that the city wanted my assistance in the deterrence of crime in our neighborhoods. Does it not make sense that the presence of an alarm system and external warnings posted to prove it would go a long way in convincing potential burglars to take their skills on down the road. I would think so. But, the government tells me while it does help it also costs them money. Well, let’s wade in and see how deep they are piling it.
Officials claim that the city is strapped with answering too many false alarms that are generated by residential alarm systems triggered by things other than thieves. They cite some figure in the hundreds of dollars of costs that comes out of taxpayer coffers in servicing each of these false starts. You know they say the liars figure and figures lie. I think that is the case here. Officials are attempting to talk over everyone’s head using figures they have to justify their extortion.
Let’s just assume that my alarm is falsely triggered by a door that is blown ajar by the wind. The system alerts those who are designated to be called. If the alarm provider makes contact and the owner goes home and turns the system off there is no problem and everyone goes about their business. Oh, and by the way, the same number of police personnel, police cars, etc. are still on the street going about their business.
Now, let’s say the alarm provider cannot get in contact with the owner and procedure calls for them to alert the police. Now, the police come out to the house, discover the door ajar and rule it a false alarm. They go about their business and leave a tag on the door notifying the owner of their presence and the false alarm call. If you get more than four of these, you get fined too by the way as well you probably should.
Now we are up to the important part, the calculation. Since an officer or two and possibly a backup had to be dispatched to answer the alarm call, the city takes the salary cost of these personnel, the hardware they employ including the squad cars and their uniforms and equipment, the cost of the dispatch radio, and various and sundry other items that exist within the infrastructure of most cities. They use this to compute some hourly value of those services. In turn, they look at the number of false alarms over the course of the year and the amount of time expended on them and arrive at a dollar cost per call. Sounds pretty logical at first look then you realize that if all the residential alarms in the city were done away with, the same infrastructure would exist at the same costs to the taxpayer.
The city goes on to say that the false alarm ties up the personnel and slows their response to other calls which may be of a higher priority. Well, there you go. There’s the logic that makes the average complaining ‘joe citizen’ look like a stupid jackass. How dare you waste the taxpayers’ resources is the implication.
Now, stop and consider this. If there is a burglary at an apartment across town that did not have an alarm system, guess what? No alarm goes off. The owner eventually comes home from work, discovers he has been robbed and calls the police to come out and investigate. But he’s not wasting their time because his is not a false alarm. And guess, what? He does not have to pay a fee for NOT having an alarm on the premises. The reason for that is apparently the city does not incur any cost to the taxpayer when they go out to investigate a real theft. Now you decide who is blowing smoke up who’s skirt.
There is a perfectly logical solution to all of this that I feel would work well. In fact, I would think it would be on the order that I would receive a thank you note from Obama for suggesting it. In my solution, the city charges everyone who does not install an alarm system in their residence a fee. This fee would be an annual one and would continue as long as the property was not equipped with an alarm. This would force all citizens to follow the same path (the part Obama would love!) or else suffer the financial consequence. And guess what, we would be fighting crime at the same time free of any fees. Holy Burglar Crap! Batman, to the Bat Phone! Best call the Commissioner!
So there you are. I paid my $50 to be pissed off for another year. I now have a ‘legal alarm’ system for which I can sleep soundly at night knowing that I have assisted the city in offsetting all those great financial losses they have incurred answering what might actually be a potential crime in progress. I feel better already.