DRACUT -- More than 100 false burglar alarms per month that unnecessarily send cruisers rushing to homes and businesses with lights and sirens has become a drain on police resources and a public-safety problem, Deputy Police Chief David Chartrand told selectmen.
The problem may be solved by fining property owners "$50 for each police response to a false alarm after three in a month's period," Chartrand advised the board.
Dracut officers respond to "about 115" burglar alarm calls per month, Chartrand said while delivering his monthly police report at Tuesday's selectmen's meeting.
"That's a lot. And we're sending two units to each call, per department policy. That's a lot of time and manpower being devoted to these alarm calls which, in the vast majority of times, there's no evidence of any breach of entry, or indication why the alarm was activated."
Such false alarms also "put the public at unnecessary risk that could be eliminated if this problem was eliminated," added Chartrand.
The deputy chief asked the board to support a town bylaw fining home and business owners $50 for each false alarm, starting with the fourth within 30 days. Currently, with no penalty in place, property owners have no incentive to get faulty alarms repaired or replaced, Chartrand noted.
"It would be a fairly simple task in enforcing this," said Chartrand. "I've already had my staff track it, and assessing that $50 fine for each response after three it would generate a significant amount of revenue for the town; two, it would be a definite incentive for the home or business owner to make sure the alarm gets fixed. Right now, they don't seem to have much of an incentive to rectify the problem on their own."
Selectmen Joe DiRocco, Bob Cox, Tony Archinski and Chairwoman Cathy Richardson told Chartrand they were hesitant to recommend such a bylaw until further discussion and research takes place.
Chartrand agreed to the board's request to obtain information on false-alarm fines and bylaws that have been passed by neighboring communities for selectmen to consider at a future meeting.
In other business, selectmen voted unanimously, 4-0, to approve Police Chief Kevin Richardson's request to have Dracut police enter the "Middlesex County Mutual Aid Agreement," with police departments in 53 other municipalities making up the county. Selectman John Zimini was absent.
Richardson said the mutual-aid agreement originated with a 1990 Massachusetts Supreme Court Case in which a drunk-driving conviction was challenged and overturned because a Natick police officer had followed an erratic driver into Framingham, where the driver ran a red light and was arrested.
By entering the Middlesex County Mutual Aid Agreement, "we're covered if, say, an on-duty Dracut officer goes over the town line after he saw something that he felt in his heart he had to act upon," Richardson said.
"(The officer) would be legally bound to act, but we'd also be covered if he needed to make an arrest."
Because it's a county-specific agreement, it does not apply to Dracut's neighboring town of Methuen, which is in Essex County, or to communities in New Hampshire, said Richardson in response to the board's questions.
"Eventually, I believe you'll see this mutual-aid agreement go across the state," Richardson said.
In her biweekly report, Acting Town Manager Ann Vandal informed selectmen there have been a rising number of requests from residents asking to take home specific "memorabilia and artifacts' from old Town Hall, once the building is demolished to make way for the new Dracut Town Hall complex next year.
Most of the items on display in old Town Hall, including many paintings, trophies and documents, are expected to be transferred to the new building, but some residents are requesting to be given structural pieces of the old building, Vandal said.
The board supported a recommendation, made by DiRocco, that Vandal decline all public requests for pieces of the old building out of fairness to all parties, until an auction may be held, DiRocco said.
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