Former officer challenges Memphis policy after being hit with more than $500 in false alarm fines

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Cordova man says he’s facing hundreds of dollars in false alarm fines from the city that he says he’s tried to call off, and he doesn’t think he’s the only one in this situation.

Property owners receive fines for false alarm calls. There’s no fee for the first false alarm, but after that it’s a written notice with a $50 fine and a $90 cost for service.

Ron Willis showed us his invoice. Right now, he owes a total of $510. He’s only lived in his home since March.

“I just don’t think this policy makes any sense,” Willis said. “I got one false alarm before I even moved into the house.”

On May 7 his alarm accidentally went off again.

“I immediately contacted my alarm service and said, ‘No, false alarm. Don’t send the police,’” Willis said. “They got on the phone and were put on hold for about four minutes trying to tell the police department it was a false alarm. Finally, we got through and a dispatcher said, ‘we will not send a car out.'”

But he says police still showed up.

“I said no, ‘false alarm, false alarm.’ But yet I still got a bill for $140,” Willis said.

We told you about the added fees when the ordinance passed in 2019. At that time the city told us they dealt with tens of thousands of false alarm calls and it was eating up resources.

Willis is a former police officer. He understands the purpose of the fee is to cut down on the misuse of services but feels he’s being double taxed.

He says he already pays high property taxes.

“My problem is if you’re charging me to come out on alarms what next?” Willis said. “If I have an accident, you’re going to start charging us to come out and do accident reports? Then what’s the purpose of paying property taxes?”

He doesn’t think he’s the only one who dealing with this issue. He’s taking steps to help the police with security cameras and alarms to hopefully scare away a would-be burglar, preventing police from using more resources in an investigation down the road.

“Don’t penalize us because we’re trying to protect our property,” Willis said.

We reached out to the city of Memphis about Willis’ issue. They told us they would get back to us with information on the case after the holiday weekend.

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