The City of Manvel has a new ordinance regarding residential and commercial fire alarms and it covers fire, police and EMS. According to the city ordinance Chapter 5 Sec 5-2 (a)(1) “No alarm user shall operate, or cause to be operated, an alarm system at its alarm site without a valid alarm permit. A separate alarm permit is required for each alarm site.” The cost of the initial permit and renewal is $50 per calendar year (Jan-Dec) and is prorated by quarter. According to Manvel Police Chief Traylor, the purpose of the permits is to reduce the number of false alarms and have current names and phone numbers of owners/key holders. He also said most cities in our area have similar permit rules but the cost varies. On average the Manvel police department responds to around 650-700 alarm calls per year. The Chief cautioned City Council that these numbers were raw since they have to manually pull the reports. The system used by the PD is a little antiquated but they will soon start using a new database in order to track calls better.
As of yesterday, 739 permits had been issued by the city which represents about $36,950 of additional revenue on an annual basis assuming they keep renewing the permit. This number is recurrent every year and will only grow as the city expands. It would be difficult to imagine for a clerk taking more than 20 minutes per data entry which comes back at no more than $15 of labor. Chief Traylor estimated the cost to respond to alarms to about $34.20 per occurrence. This calculate the salary for 2 police officers and 1 dispatcher for 30 minutes. Most alarms are cleared in much less time but if we go by that number, it cost the city around $24,000 for police to respond to the alarms. Let’s not forget this is a hypothetical cost as the manpower responding is already on the clock. The gas used to drive to that location would be used to drive around anyway. As of now non-compliance to this ordinance is not enforced as more education is needed. If it were enforced the fine is a whopping $500 PER DAY. The city should at least consider making the renewal permit much cheaper if nothing changes on the database information. Citizens already pay taxes that are used to fund the police department and responding to alarm is part of their job. It is a fact that sending 2 police cars to a burglar alarm decreases the potential revenue from traffic violations fines. So, for the Chief and the city this ordinance is a win-win. Less time spent responding to alarm so more time to give tickets. More revenue from traffic violations and also more revenue from alarm permit. Maybe the City Council should revisit this ordinance and make it more citizens friendly.