Emergency calls could end up being pricey in Belmont

Hundreds of businesses and residences could end up paying for officers to respond to calls under a proposed ordinance, a plan critics say could discourage calls to 911 during emergencies.

The proposal was designed as a possible solution to the problem of certain property owners disproportionately using emergency services, often leaving other areas without adequate police protection, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance is modeled after a Ventura law that requires locations that call police at least six times per year to enact a written safety and security plan within two weeks after the sixth call. A call requiring at least five officers would automatically trigger the need for a safety plan.

If the City Council used that threshold, it would affect more than 600 locations in Belmont, City Attorney Marc Zafferano said.

Calls for domestic violence, the city’s noise ordinance or responses to false alarms would not contribute toward a property’s annual tally.

If the property owner fails to submit an acceptable plan, police would develop one forcing changes to the property. Those who fail to comply by their property’s plan would pay for the cost of subsequent police responses to their location.

The security plan would be to help circumvent the problems that would lead to calling police, Capt. Dan DeSmidt said.

One concern already raised is the possibility the ordinance would serve as a disincentive to calling police, DeSmidt said.

In the future, a similar Belmont ordinance may be proposed in regard to Belmont-San Carlos Fire Department callers. Fifteen locations called the Fire Department seven or more times in the past year, according to the department.

The ordinance was to be introduced Tuesday, but it was pushed back for discussion at the Oct. 14 City Council meeting. City staff, including police, have not taken a position on the proposal.

mrosenberg@sfexaminer.com

Dialing an emergency

Belmont’s most frequent police callers is past year.

789: Police administrative office*

393: Carlmont High School

246: Safeway on El Camino Real

220: Notre Dame de Namur University

208: Motel 6

*The police administrative office is recorded as the address when people report crimes at the station.

Source: Belmont Police Department

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