In 2010, the Atlanta Police Department responded to more than 73,000 commercial and residential alarms. A staggering majority, 54,700, were false, eating up hundreds of personnel hours and dragging officers away from fighting real crime.

With the APD stretched thin already, false alarms present a dangerous waste of police resources, a problem Atlanta shares with other cities.

North of Atlanta, at the Sandy Springs Police Department, Lt. Steve Rose says suburban traffic ensures an alarm call takes about 45 minutes for each officer who responds, and sometimes longer. The SSPD gets between 800 and 1,200 calls for alarms each month. Most, he says, are false, which creates hazards that go beyond mere inefficiency.

DeKalb County Police received 74,452 alarm calls in 2009 (the most recent numbers available), of which 73,136, or 98 percent, were false.

“Nationally, we know that about 99 percent of all alarms are false,” says Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn, chair of the alarm management committee for the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP). “It is an enormous problem for police.”

Alarms, he says, both false and valid combined, account for about 10 percent of the demand on police across the country.

Read more of my story on false alarms and what they cost us at The Buckhead Reporter, where I’m currently helping out a little:



  1. Let’s not forget that APD does charge for the false alarm visits after I believe 1/year. So if the alarm company dispatches the PD/APD second time in one year and it is false, the cost (around 150$) is paid by the establishment. These calls/visits also are not priority over almost any call. No surprise here after looking at the 99 to 1 percent statistic ratio false vs. real alarm.
    I think the issue needs to be tackled with coordination between the PD and the alarm companies. They need to get together and figure out why the false alarms are happening so often. Fix the problem and lower the false alarms ratio with technology. Alarm companies should be held accountable for bettering the filtration of false from real burglary. We should be able to this, come on, remember we landed a man on the moon 

  2. Does APD normally send two officers to alarm calls, unless there’s some way of knowing that people are in the building via interior motion detectors that are activated? In the Officers are not sent to alarm calls when higher priority calls come in to 911. The alarm calls are pushed further down the list, when it gets busy. The law to charge the homeowners has been around for a while, city chose not to enforce it. Homeowner will blame the alarm company, alarm company will blame the homeowner and then someone will blame the family dog for setting off the motion sensors. Then the homeowner, after being charged all the time, gets rid of the alarm. Then, when the burglar doesn’t set off the alarm, they continue breaking into the house or business. The burglary will then add to the crime stats, go figure. Then you get to squeeze more money out of the residents, who already have very high taxes for a horrendous school system, corrupt water department, etc, etc, etc. Nothing but a money grab from city hall. I’m sure it will work out for them nicely.

    1. Rob,

      Fill us in. How are they prioritized? I would think they would be very low priority–maybe, for example, an officer would check them en route to another call? — Best, Steph

  3. Alarms, other than holdup alarms, shouldn’t be dispatched on unless they can be confirmed valid.

  4. Thanks for the link to the expanded article.
    Does APD give any reason on why they only bill 1% of false alarms? Are they just going after the worst offenders? This is the computer age and you should be able to send 1000 invoices as easily as you can send 10.

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