- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans residents will have to pay a higher price for the tens of thousands of annual false burglary alarm calls that officials say are draining resources from an understaffed city police department.

The New Orleans City Council approved a plan Thursday to increase the fines for false alarms, multiple media outlets reported.

Under the new ordinance, residents will be fined $75 for a second false alarm in a year and $150 for each of the year’s next two false alarms. Police will stop responding after the fourth alarm, with the tally resetting each year.

Under current policy, fines for false alarms don’t kick in until the fourth incident. The police do not stop responding until the 10th.

Burglary-in-progress phone calls from residents - or alarms triggered by residents - will continue to get emergency responses. So will alarms in which alarm companies verify a crime-in-progress by audio or video.

New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison praised the ordinance at the council meeting.

The ordinance goes “a very long way in helping NOPD manage its resources,” Harrison said.

The police department says about 98.8 percent of burglary alarm calls prove to be false. City officers responded to about 48,000 false alarms last year, accounting for 11 percent of all service calls.

Officials said the wasted man-hours cost the city about $400,000 a year and that eliminating them would amount to adding six full-time police officers to the force.

Representatives of alarm companies and some residents opposed the measure, asking unsuccessfully for a delay of the council’s vote.

The ordinance allows NOPD to hire a contractor to administer the program. Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said the department plans to put out a request for proposals before selecting such a contractor.

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