In order to reduce the number of false alarms and create more time for police officers to respond to crimes and solve problems, the City of Palo Alto amended Chapter 4.39 of the Palo Alto Municipal Code, which regulates alarms within the city.
A key element of the alarm ordinance is the requirement that all alarm users must have an alarm permit. The alarm permit requires users to provide the Police Department with the names, addresses and phone numbers of three people who can respond to the premises of the activated alarm within 30 minutes if the need arises.
Every residence or business operating an alarm system in Palo Alto must obtain a permit from the Palo Alto Police Department. Currently, the fee for a new alarm permit is $55, and the annual fee for renewal is $41. The revenue generated from these permits is used to defray the costs of administering the ordinance.
The alarm ordinance encourages accountability and responsibility of the users by charging alarm owners for false alarms. We recognize that no alarm user is perfect, so to that end, two false alarms in a 12-month period (beginning with the first false alarm received) are allowed without a penalty assessed. However, after two false alarms, a progressive fee will be assessed up to and through the sixth false alarm. After the sixth false alarm, police will place the alarm on a non-response status for a specific period of time. A non-response status means that officers will not respond to any new alarms received. Alarm users may appeal revocations. Also, if officers respond to any alarm activation at a location that does not have an alarm permit, the property owner can incur a $250 penalty fine.
The City of Palo Alto defines a false alarm as "an alarm signal resulting in a response by the police department when an emergency does not exist." An alarm shall be presumed false if the responding officer(s) do not locate any evidence of an intrusion or of the commission of an unlawful act or emergency on the premises which might have caused the alarm to sound. Alarms caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other acts of nature, are not considered to be false alarms.