False alarm ordinance in effect in Douglas County

Residents with systems that request law enforcement response must now register that system with the county.
The sheriff's office is hoping to raise more awareness about the change.
Published: Oct. 3, 2022 at 10:31 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is reminding residents about a new false alarm ordinance that went into effect this summer, after reporting the office has received numerous phone calls from confused residents.

In June, Douglas County adopted a new false alarm ordinance for those who live outside Omaha city limits.

“It came from for years, we would always respond to alarms, we did our research and 99% of alarms in Douglas County were false alarms, so that’s taking away deputies’ precious time to do proactive policing and other law enforcement functions,” says Chief Deputy Wayne Hudson with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

Residents with systems that request law enforcement response when their alarms are triggered are now required to register that system with the county.

“If you have one of these alarm systems in your home that’s just an audible alarm and it doesn’t call for law enforcement dispatch, then you don’t have to register that,” Hudson says. “But if [your alarm] goes into a central service, and calls our 911 center and calls for a dispatch of law enforcement, if you want us to respond, then you have to have your alarm registered.”

The adopted ordinance is identical to the city of Omaha’s false alarm ordinance.

“That way when the city of Omaha annexes an area, you don’t see any changes in your services,” Hudson said.

The ordinance only applies to intruder alarms — it has no impact on fire, CO2, or other alarms you may have in your home.

The first call for registered false alarm calls comes at no cost, but false alarm call numbers two and three will cost $100. After that, it bumps up to $250.

Hudson says the county sent out several media releases and public announcements about the ordinance change. They sent a letter to their vendor, CryWolf, which then notified the registered alarm companies in the area about the change.

After that, it’s the alarm company’s responsibility to notify their customers about the ordinance, since the county doesn’t know who in the county owns an alarm system and who doesn’t.

Admittedly, Hudson says it’s unclear if those companies are taking that step. Rocky Kelly, a returning resident of Elkhorn, says that’s exactly what happened to her.

“Last Tuesday, I get a call from my security system that my back door alarmed. Well, I knew I locked it,” Kelly says.

She moved into her new home in September, after the ordinance took effect.

“They say, ‘hey we got this alarm, we’re going to dispatch police,’ and I say please do because I’m not there, nobody else is home, please send them.”

But within five minutes, she gets another call from her security system.

“They say, ‘hey, they’re not coming because they said that you’re not registered with Douglas County, and I said well, what does that mean?”

Thankfully, it was a false alarm, but Rocky says the representative from her security company didn’t have the information she needed, and neither did the representative from the Omaha Police.

Rocky told 6 News she felt let down by her company for not notifying her of the registration requirement when she moved into her home.

She was also frustrated with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for not responding and says they could have at least asked her when her system was installed. She got connected with Chief Deputy Wayne Hudson, who she says took her concern and confusion very seriously.

Hudson says if the Sheriff’s Office notices a trend of certain companies not notifying residents of the registration requirement, they will contact the company and could file a complaint.

Rocky tells 6 News she’s sharing her story to make sure others are aware of the new ordinance, so they’re protected in case of a real emergency.

“To be told no one’s coming to your home, and I had to walk through my home by myself, and thank God my neighbors did it with me, I still that night, I was nervous.”