LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Metro Louisville officials have begun filing lawsuits to collect thousands in fines against businesses and organizations that have frequent false alarms to which police respond.
The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/SDTFaC) reports 37 lawsuits have been filed so far and more than a dozen are pending against those with the most fines. Police Lt. Col. Ozzy Gibson said some of the fines have reached "ridiculous amounts" so the city decided to take action.
He said officials hope the suits send a message to companies: fix faulty equipment, and stop wasting police time and taxpayer money.
"If there's no bite in it, nobody's going to fix their stuff," Gibson said.
For example, city records show a Taco Bell on East Broadway, which is named in one of the lawsuits, has had more than 40 false alarms since 2008 and racked up a $10,700 fine.
The newspaper reports a Taco Bell manager referred a request for comment to parent company Yum! Brands, which did not return a call.
Some businesses being sued say they disagree with the city's stance.
"I think it's a disgrace," said Jaque Thomas, who owns five day cares and owes more than $4,000 in fines. " ... They charge us enough taxes as it is."
She said the fines, usually at $300 a run, are too high.
"The amount is extreme," she said. "Does it cost $300 in gas to run here from the corner?" where she says officers are usually parked.
The business fines stem from a 2005 policy to crack down on the number of false alarms police were responding to. Gibson said before the fines, officers responded to more than 40,000 false alarms each year. This year, it had responded to about half that number through October.
He said police want a further reduction because those are "invaluable man hours that can be used for something else."
The city is owed about $400,000 in false alarm fees from business owners and residents.
Gibson the lawsuits are a say to encourage people to repair faulty alarms. Although Thomas acknowledged having her alarm fixed recently, she said she has had to pay for alarms in which would-be burglars are scared off.
"I feel it's wrong we pay to have protection, then we use it and get penalized and have to pay again," she said. "We already pay the police department to protect us. That is your job."
Police say the false alarms cost an average of $180 per run and are frustrating to officers.
"How many times should we keep coming there because you won't take care of your property?" Gibson asked. "It's a serious problem."
Information from: The Courier-Journal, http://www.courier-journal.com