Merced County Alarm Ordinance
The Merced County Sheriff’s Office responded to approximately 1,867 alarms during 2018. Studies have consistently shown that 98 percent of the alarms that deputies respond too are false. The major cause of false alarms is user error, usually either opening or closing errors, and improper maintenance. Each alarm response requires a minimum of two patrol deputies and averages 20 minutes per deputy, per alarm. This equates to 1,600 hours or the equivalent to slightly more than one full-time deputy sheriff, at a cost of approximately $80,000 per year. These false alarms negatively influence the overall safety of the community by diverting deputies from actual emergencies and other legitimate calls for service.
In order to reduce the number of false alarms and create more time for deputies to respond to crimes and solve problems, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office adopted the Merced County Alarm Ordinance 1724, Chapter 10.80, which regulates alarms within the county.
VIEW: Alarm Ordinance 10.80
A key element of the alarm ordinance is the requirement that all alarm users have an alarm permit. The alarm permit is an integral part of the ordinance because it requires alarm users to provide the Sheriff’s Office with the names and phone numbers of two persons who can respond to the premises of the activated alarm within if the need arises.
Any person who uses an alarm system for the protection of his real or personal property or person which has caused any signal, message or alarm, to be transmitted, either by direct communication from an alarm agent or an alarm business, or by a person responding to an audible alarm, and which is proven to be false, shall pay a false alarm prevention fee to the County as follows:
1. The first two (2) false alarms in any six (6) months shall be considered accidental and fees shall not be charged. The owner or lessee of the alarm system shall be notified in writing after the occurrence of the second false alarm that additional false alarms within six (6) months of the first shall result in the following fees. Such assessments shall be established by the Merced County Sheriff’s Department to offset law enforcement salary costs and administrative cost overhead for this program:
- Third false alarm: $ 50.00
- Fourth false alarm: $100.00
- Fifth false alarm: $150.00
- Each additional false alarm: $200.00
1. The sheriff shall cause to be issued a monthly bill for unpaid fees accrued during any monthly billing period and any prior periods. Such bill shall be due and payable within thirty (30) days after the billing date.
2. A late fee of fifteen percent (15%) shall be added to the fees required by this section in connection with any fees not paid in the time and manner set forth above.
3. The amount of any fee and late fee assessed pursuant to this article shall be deemed a debt to the County, and an action may be commenced in the name of the County in any court of competent jurisdiction in the amount of the delinquent debt. Payment of any user fees and late fees shall not prohibit criminal prosecution for the violation of any provisions of this division.
To apply for an alarm permit: You can apply in person at the front desk of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, 700 W. 22nd Street in Merced during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.), you can click on the link below to download and complete the application form (you can also complete it online and then print it out), and then either mail or bring the completed application to the Sheriff’s Office. You may also pick up a blank application at the Sheriff’s Office during normal business hours if you do not have access to the Internet. If you choose to apply in person, you should be prepared to post the fee and provide all required information.
DOWNLOAD: Permit Application
The alarm ordinance encourages accountability and responsibility of the user(s) by charging alarm owners for false alarms. No alarm user is perfect. That being said, If at any time it comes to the attention of the Sheriff that the user of an alarm system has violated any provisions of this ordinance, including but not limited to Section 10.80.020(j), the Sheriff may serve such alarm user with a written order of suspension or revocation, which shall state the reasons for such suspension or revocation.
The Merced County Sheriff’s Office defines a false alarm as "an alarm signal resulting in a response by the Sheriff Office when an emergency does not exist." An alarm shall be presumed false if the responding deputies do not locate any evidence of an intrusion or of the commission of an unlawful act or emergency on the premises, which might have caused the alarm to sound. Alarms caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other "violent" acts of nature, shall not be deemed false alarms.
If you have questions regarding the alarm ordinance, you can contact the Merced County Sheriff’s Office at 209-385-7445.