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Wednesday, 06 May 2015 15:14

Swain commissioners: False alarm law needs common sense approach

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law enforcementSwain County Commissioners are moving forward with a false alarm ordinance with the understanding that the sheriff’s office will enforce it with “common sense” in mind. 

Sheriff Curtis Cochran asked the commissioners several months ago to consider passing an ordinance that would to help his department recoup costs associated with responding to false alarms at homes.  

Cochran said excessive false alarms are a burden on the sheriff’s department’s limited resources. The department responded to more than 1,000 security alarm calls in 2014 and 117 since January 2015. Deputies respond to all the alarm calls, but most are the result of a faulty alarm system. 

Commissioners agreed the ordinance was needed but had a concern about the appeals process wording in the draft ordinance. The ordinance proposed that the sheriff would hear the appeal and make a ruling, but commissioners and the sheriff thought that would be a conflict. 

“It’s not a good idea for me to hear it if we’re issuing the fines,” Cochran told commissioners. “I just want to make sure whoever hears it has to listen to both sides.”

At first, commissioners thought the appeals should come before the entire board, but after further discussions, it was decided that County Manager Kevin King would hear the appeals along with whichever two commissioners are available at the time. The deputy who issued the $50 fine would also be present. 

Commissioner Ben Bushyhead said he was concerned about senior citizens not knowing how to maintain their alarm system or not being able to turn it off in time before dispatch was called. He doesn’t want elderly residents to be fined for something like that. 

Cochran told the commissioners that his deputies would take these calls on a case-by-case basis. 

“We’re going to use common sense — if we go out and it’s an elderly couple having problems, we’re not going to fine them,” he said. 

The final draft will be available for the public to view and the required public hearing will be held at the commissioners’ May 14 meeting. 

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