It was becoming a too-familiar pattern for Jordan police officers: Receive a call from Jordan High School that there was a security system breach. Show up at school to discover it was a false alarm. Head back to the station.
Between Sept. 1 and early March, police received 25 alarm calls from the high school — nearly all of them false alarms and accidental.
“There’s better things we could be doing than responding to false alarms,” said Brett Empey, Jordan’s police chief. Officers “can become complacent if they’re coming there all the time.”
Empey wrote a letter to the superintendent explaining the situation in late February. Since then, the school board implemented a fine system for anyone who mistakenly sets off the alarm. The fine, applied at the district’s discretion, is $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $100 plus revocation of privileges for the third.
“You know what this is? This is user error,” said Barb McNulty, principal at Jordan High School.
McNulty emphasized that the alarm system isn’t complex or confusing.
The majority of the calls happened on the weekends or after school, said Empey.
That’s when community education, athletic teams and other school groups are using the school for programs such as driver’s education, softball or speech, McNulty said.
Mistakes in entering the code, not leaving the building soon enough or propping open a door could result in a false alarm, she added.
School Board Member Deb Pauly said there were some repeat offenders who were tripping the alarm frequently. The situation was also inconvenient for the school staff member — a custodian or administrator — who was on call in case of school emergencies. They had to show up at school every time, she said.
The fine system, put in place several weeks ago, makes sense, said Pauly.
“It seems pretty simple to me that we need to be respectful of our police department and staff because people are not following procedure.”
Empey said that some cities, like Shakopee, have alarm ordinances that charge residents or businesses a fine, often $100, every time the police are accidentally called. Jordan doesn’t have such a policy.