Billed for Burglary? KHQ investigates Spokane false alarms - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Billed for Burglary? KHQ investigates Spokane false alarms

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SPOKANE, Wash. -

Property crime continues to plague family after family in our community. We're constantly telling you stories of the latest victims. It has so many of you worried, you're turning to alarm systems to keep you and your home safe. But, one family believes their alarm system may have backfired.

"The police provide an extremely valuable service," said homeowner Mark Case. "I appreciate what they do. They risk their lives every day to protect citizens."

Case says he couldn't be more grateful for the men and women who work to keep our streets safe, but he says he's still troubled by a recent bill.

"It seems a little odd that you would have to pay in order to have them respond to a call."

Back in August, Mark and his family were out of the country for a week. On the day they were flying home, their security alarm went off. Spokane Police were dispatched to investigate. We obtained body camera footage from that call. Officers determined there was no foul play, and the Case family earned an $85 bill for a 'false alarm.'

Only adding to their frustration, is the fact that they already pay to simply have an alarm system. This is the first time the family has had a situation like this with their alarm going off.

"I moved to Spokane two and a half years ago and received an invoice from the city for $25 just because I have an alarm system," he said.

So what's the city's side?

"The reason we have to associate a fine with the false alarm program is we won't get compliance without it," said SPD Capt. Tom Hendren. "The monetary fine is where we get people to address issues with their alarms."

And alarm issues are more common than you might think. The department responds to up to 4,500 alarm every year, or an average of roughly 12 a day. Approximately 97 percent turn out to be false alarms. Hendren said because of the nature of the call, a minimum of two officers have to go.

"It's considered a priority two call which means it's a potential in progress crime or incident," he said. "It's not something that would sit like a cold burglary report. Having said that, other things will be higher priority."

So, how much money does the false alarm program bring in? Last year alone, it generated about $286,000. In 2015 that number was $320,000 and then $317,000 for 2014.  

We learned that money goes to the City of Spokane's general fund. They money is then reallocated into the city's overall budget. That could include expenses for SPD, but not necessarily. The general fund covers city operational expenditures.

Case said he wishes the funds went solely toward public safety.

"If the money was actually benefiting (only) the police department, I think I'd feel a little better about it," he said.

The Case family plans on fighting their fine, but even that appeal will cost them another $25.

"In the letter, if I want to contest this fine, I have to pay just to contest it," he said.

It is something he is willing to do.

Capt. Hendren said a successful appeal requires proof of a crime. An example would be security video showing a thief running off before police arrival, or if they made entry in a way officers couldn't see while walking around the home, such as the roof.

The Case family may not have that, but still hopes the city will see their side.

"It's what $85, at the end of the day it's not a huge deal but it's the principle of it," Case said. "The citizen doesn't really have a chance."

We learned false alarm programs vary by community. If you live in Spokane County, officials said they do not charge for false alarms.

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