False house alarms: The price Jacksonville homeowners are forced to pay for safety

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False alarms take valuable time from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, — where officials say 98 percent of all alarm calls are not legitimate. 

The agency has started a new program to cut that down — but it will cost the homeowner a one-time fee of $10. 

“I thought it was more like a hidden tax on the homeowner,” Steffen Strayer, of Jacksonville, said. 

Strayer said his alarm has been registered with JSO for 10 years, so this caught him off-guard. 

“I thought it was strange because I had been registered and upstanding with it all the time I owned the home,” Strayer said. 

He’s not the only one who questioned the cost. In June, the city's alarm database got an upgrade to essentially kick out old information and reduce the number of false alarms.

Only 21 percent of the $10 fee actually goes to the company in charge of the database. 

Residents and business owners called Action News Jax wanting to know where the rest of the money goes. 

“Is it benefiting me? Is it benefiting my family? Is it doing anything for the community helping businesses?" asked Pat Miller, owner of Jean’s Wig Shop. 

JSO Chief Larry Schmitt says the money goes into the general fund, not JSO’s budget. 

“We didn't want there to be like, ‘Well, you're only doing this to raise money for the Sheriff's Office,’” Schmitt said. “That is absolutely not the motivation behind this.” 

More than 20,000 people and businesses have registered since the system was implemented. 

Schmitt called the $10 charge a kind of a service fee. The man hours lost answering false alarms cost the city a lot more than the money coming in with the new system. 

“You can argue that it's revenue-generating, but the reality is, it covers a portion of the cost,” Schmitt said. 

Every year, homeowners will be required to update the registry with their current information.

JSO will also charge a fine after the second false alarm within a calendar year. 

If you refuse to register your home or business alarm, you'll get one pass. The second time your alarm goes off, JSO won’t respond. The agency will, however, always respond to 911 calls made from your home or business.

Action News Jax Investigates

It's every homeowner's worst nightmare -- and the cost of protecting your own house just got more expensive. Why should you have to pay a JSO fee for your home? http://bit.ly/2zUj8H4

Posted by Action News Jax on Friday, October 27, 2017