County looks to charge for false alarms

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat /

The Calaveras County Sheriff's Department will move forward with drafting an ordinance that will charge for responses to false alarms.

The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday OK'd inking a contract with Livermore-based consultant R. Schumacher and Associates, which will help formulate the false alarm ordinance at an initial cost of $4,500 and then 10 percent of annual false alarm fees collected in the first three years after its adoption.

Company founder Robert Schumacher said in terms of alarm calls, 95 to 98 percent turn out to be false alarms.

Calaveras County Board of Supervisors members asked that any ordinance go light on first-time offenders and not impose heavy fines until multiple offenses have occurred.

"What we're trying to get here is compliance and not have to drive 30 minutes, 45 minutes out for a false alarm and then have to turn around and go back," Sheriff's Capt. Jim Macedo replied.

In addition, the firm also may take charge of applying for, maintaining and managing grants for the department for a 10 percent fee.

The Sheriff's Department has been hit by five years of diminished funding and is looking for ways to replenish its depleted force, which saw layoffs for four consecutive years prior to this budget cycle.

Schumacher said the firm helped grow Alameda County Sheriff's Office grants from $5 million to $30 million in four years.

The department's operations "should be looked at from more of a business perspective in terms of eliminating redundancies … making sure you cut the fat as much as you possibly can," Schumacher said.

Schumacher Macedo said the firm's know-how could provide a major boost to the department. He cited their experience in gaining grants that put inmates to work on projects beneficial to the community like forest restoration.

"We've written COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grants. We brought them in for the kind of grants we don't necessarily have the expertise for … but we could possibly provide the labor for," Macedo said. "We have a genuine interest for getting inmates out of jail and doing something other than sitting around the house on an electronic monitor."

"We come in," Schumacher said. "We give you some solutions and we get out."

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