Peru suspends billing portion of false alarm ordinance

Trying to collect bills not worth the time, officials say

Peru City Hall in Peru, Illinois

Peru has suspended a portion of its false alarm ordinance, permitting that the police department no longer charge businesses for alarm calls after Chief Sarah Raymond’s request during Monday’s Finance Committee meeting.

“It just doesn’t seem like the work that we have to put in to billing these people and then trying to collect on these bills is worth it,” Raymond said during the Finance Committee meeting.

She commented during that meeting because the Public Services Committee did not have enough members for a quorum.

Raymond said in an email that a false alarm is the activation of an alarm system for any reason other than a bona fide authorized entry of the alarm site and/or fire.

The ordinance was revamped in 2013, Raymond said, to exclude residents from being subjected to fines and fees for having police respond to a false alarm. The ordinance only charges businesses with a schedule of payment written within the ordinance.

She said it was labor intensive for not only her administrative assistant but also for all of finance officer Tracy Mitchell’s office.

“We’re keeping track of how many they’ve had and what it’s related to, [and] if they’ve been fined before, and, in the end, we’re making $5,000 a year,” Raymond said.

She said there were 341 alarm calls in 2023, of which about 40 were residential. Residential alarms occur mostly because of weather-related instances, such as high winds, doors blowing open, motion sensors when something falls off a wall or other things of that nature.

Business alarms generally are for the same reasons, including when delivery personnel enter the wrong code, for example.

“Not all false alarms are truly not an alarm of significance,” she said.

Raymond said there were parts of the ordinance that the department didn’t even use, such as the ability to say they no longer were going to respond because there were too many false alarms.

“We’re not going to do that,” she said. “It’s our job to respond to these types of calls. We’ve always responded to alarms. There’s not going to be a time that happens that we’re not going to respond.”

Raymond said in an email that there is no penalty for Peru residents, and the purpose of the discussion was to end the penalty for businesses as well, with the exception of a business false alarm becoming a nuisance, which has yet to be determined.