FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - The fine just went substantially up if you trigger eight or more false burglar alarms in a year, but the number of mandatory court appearances went down.

Township Council members unanimously adopted an ordinance Tuesday night that reduces the number of times violators need to appear in court, but could fine people reporting eight or more false burglar alarms in a year up to $2,000 for each occurrence above that threshold.

“If you have these alarms, they are burglar alarms and not fire alarms,” Mayor Phillip Kramer said.  “You still have to pay the fine, but you do not have to appear in court until the eighth time the alarm has gone off in a year’s time.

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According to the ordinance, residents and businesses are issued a “first warning” after a third false alarm incident in a calendar year and then fined $50 and $15 in court costs.

The 5-7 instances of false alarms in a year are then fined $75 plus $15 court costs each.

For the eighth and each subsequent false alarms within a given year, the fine rises from $100 in the previous ordinance, to up to $2,000 as determined by the municipal court judge as well as making a court appearance mandatory, according to the ordinance.

The maximum fine, however, is at the discretion of the judge and is the highest that can be imposed at the municipal court level, Township Attorney Louis Rainone said.

Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said following the meeting that the main change in the ordinance was to eliminate the need for people to appear in court until the eighth violation.

“It was a mandatory court appearance (for violations after the fourth),” Vornlocker said. “That is the major change. For the first couple lesser offenses, they were mandated to appear in court. Now they can pay them by mail.”

He said that false fire alarms are not as much of an issue and are handled under a separate ordinance.

“The fire alarms don’t happen as frequently, the false alarms for fire are nowhere near as voluminous as the false alarms for burglar alarms.”

Vornlocker said that in the case of fire alarms, water going through a sprinkler system or an actual fire usually trigger the alarms, while burglar alarms are much different and are usually caused by either bad maintenance or the carelessness of the operator.

“(False burglar alarms) are a drain on the resources of the police department,” Vornlocker, a former police officer, said. “If you don’t get to your central station monitor before they call the police, we send a police officer (anyway).”

Vornlocker said that the officers have to consider who is on the other end of the phone saying it’s a false alarm, and that it could actually be the perpetrator of the crime.

“What would a burglar do?” he said. “He might call and say ‘it’s a false alarm,’ or pick up and answer the phone, so we (police) go.”

Vornlocker couldn't say immediately if the fines were similar for fire alarms, but did say that he couldn't remember a time when a fine for that was imposed.

“It just doesn’t happen,” he said.

Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad was absent from the meeting and no one spoke during the public hearing on the ordinance.

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