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False Alarms

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OPINION
January 21, 2003
Re "Alarm Plan Pits Police Against L.A. City Council," Jan. 16: We just moved from Newport Beach, where police respond to every alarm. Only the first and second false alarms are "free." On consecutive false alarms there is a fine, which becomes progressively larger. The residents are protected and the city gets richer. T.B. Wilson Los Angeles
ARTICLES BY DATE
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 28, 2014 | By a Times staff writer
After initial reports of a hostage situation at Homeboy Industries, Los Angeles police said Thursday night that they had found no gunman or hostages at the facility. At least 20 police cars sped to Bruno Street in Chinatown after getting a call that a gunman was holding several people hostage inside a building. LAPD Public Information Officer Nuria Vanegas said police had received a call at 10:22 p.m. saying that an armed former employee was at 130 Bruno St. -- the site of Homeboy Industries -- holding six to eight people inside.
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CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 4, 2009 | Alexandra Zavis
It was a quiet night at the Crescenta Valley High School evacuation center. Eleven people were asleep in their cots, evacuated from homes near burning foothills in the Angeles National Forest. Then, with no warning, nearly 200 more evacuees turned up about 2:30 a.m. Some clutched pillows and still wore pajamas, said Mack Dugger, an American Red Cross volunteer on duty that night. They'd been jarred from their beds early Monday by automated phone calls -- known as reverse 911 calls -- warning them to get out of the path of the Station fire.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
October 30, 2013 | By Catherine Saillant
In a bid to cut down on fake 911 calls, the Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to offer rewards for tipsters providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction those who engage in "swatting. " Swatting is a malicious prank in which someone reports that a violent crime, usually involving a celebrity, is underway. The calls prompt a SWAT-team-style response to a location where no crime is occurring. The false alarms tie up Los Angeles Police Department resources and some responding officers have been injured responding to fake calls, officials said.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
April 30, 1989
Owners of home security systems in Hermosa Beach will have to pay the city a $100 fine if they have more than three false alarms in the same fiscal year. The measure, adopted Tuesday by the City Council, is similar to ordinances in other cities. It becomes effective May 25 and continues an earlier requirement that alarm system owners obtain permits from the city. In proposing the ordinance, Public Safety Director Steve Wisniewski said that between 95% and 99% of alarm calls are false.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
September 10, 1992 | HELAINE OLEN, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Repeated false security alarms will now cost property owners money as the result of City Council action Tuesday. Police will impose fines of up to $125 on the owners of security alarms that repeatedly malfunction, causing police to check the premises. "They are a high-priority call and officers are taken away from other duties to answer them," said Orange Police Chief John R. Robertson.
NEWS
October 18, 1992
Responding to a rising number of citizen complaints about false alarms in vehicles, the City Council last week approved a measure to penalize owners of offending vehicles. The ordinance, effective Nov. 11, will allow police to cite owners who allow false alarms to continue for more than five minutes. First-time violators could be fined a maximum of $100. A second infraction could draw a penalty of up to $200. The measure was approved on a 4-0 vote. Mayor Fred Balderrama was absent.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
January 13, 2001
Joe Gunn, executive director of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, spoke with MARCELA ROJAS about the LAPD's policies concerning private alarm systems. * The Police Department issues permits on any activity that would require police intervention. The alarm permit is a standard permit approved by the City Council years ago. Unfortunately, alarm companies [that sell the alarms] usually neglect to tell customers that they will have to get a police permit for their alarm systems.
NEWS
August 25, 1991
Starting Oct. 3, residents and business owners may have to pay penalties for repeated false security alarms. If a proposed ordinance is approved by the City Council next month, a letter will be sent to homeowners where three false fire or medical alarms have gone off within a year. The fourth and fifth false alarms will carry $50 penalties, and subsequent alarms will cost $100. Homeowners will be fined $200 on the second false robbery or burglary alarm in a year.
NATIONAL
June 16, 2013 | By David Willman, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - A decade ago, then-Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge oversaw the start of BioWatch, the nationwide system designed to detect airborne releases of anthrax or other biological weapons. In his 2003 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush had announced that BioWatch would "protect our people and our homeland. " Ridge's expectations were not so high. "Everyone knew it was a primitive, labor-intensive, fairly unsophisticated attempt," Ridge recalled in a recent interview.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
March 25, 2013 | Maeve Reston
The evacuation announcement came over the loudspeaker at the Beverly Center in the early afternoon -- a muffled voice telling shoppers that this was not a drill, that everyone needed to leave the mall immediately. Like many others at the enormous shopping complex in West L.A., Christina Taylor couldn't make out exactly what the official said as she and her mother browsed at Bloomingdale's on Sunday. But they immediately noticed panicked store employees locking up registers and running toward the exits.
NATIONAL
January 31, 2013 | By David Willman, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - Leaders of a House committee probing BioWatch, the nation's troubled system for detecting biological attacks, complained Thursday that administration officials had blocked them from seeing documents held by two senior federal scientists known to have been privately skeptical of the nationwide program. The materials are of particular interest to congressional investigators, in part because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is pushing for a revamping of BioWatch that would cost taxpayers $3.1 billion in its first five years.
NATIONAL
December 21, 2012 | By David Willman, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - Year after year, health officials meeting at invitation-only government conferences leveled with one another about Biowatch, the nation's system for detecting deadly pathogens that might be unleashed into the air by terrorists. They shared stories of repeated false alarms - mistaken warnings of germ attacks from Los Angeles to New York City. Some questioned whether BioWatch worked at all. They did not publicize their misgivings. Indeed, the sponsor of the conferences, the U.S. Homeland Security Department, insists that BioWatch's operations, in more than 30 cities, be kept mostly secret.
OPINION
November 21, 2012
It's possible that not every problem has a technological solution. That will come as a shock to U.S. policymakers, who since the 9/11 terrorist attacks have invested in multiple technologies to protect us from evildoers. Some have been a success, while others - such as enhanced surveillance techniques or airport scanners that can peer through clothing - are often seen as unacceptable invasions of privacy. And then there are ideas that simply don't work or are impractical, such as scanning every shipping container entering U.S. ports for nuclear weapons.
NATIONAL
November 15, 2012 | By David Willman, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON - Homeland Security Department and other federal officials responsible for BioWatch, the nationwide system for detecting deadly biological attacks, have withheld key documents sought by a congressional committee, according to the panel's leaders. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the chairmen call for her to comply with their original request for documents, which was triggered by a July 8 Los Angeles Times article that disclosed shortcomings in BioWatch's performance.
NEWS
September 25, 2012 | By Jon Bardin, Los Angeles Times
A new study suggests that a physician's gut feelings -- a sense that something is wrong even when everything checks out in the standard clinical exam -- may contain more information than he or she gives them credit for. A growing literature has begun to ask whether such gut feelings add anything substantive to a doctor's clinical exam. But in general the studies have been limited by a shaky understanding of just what is meant by gut feeling -- specifically, which aspects of a patient visit lead to a doctor's gut feeling that are not part of the standard clinical exam.
NATIONAL
September 14, 2012 | By David Willman, Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee and a senior Republican colleague voiced grave doubts Thursday about the viability of BioWatch, the nation's system for detecting biological attacks that has been plagued by false alarms. Committee members endorsed a new report from the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, that bluntly faulted the Department of Homeland Security's management of BioWatch and recommended that contracting for a multibillion-dollar overhaul be halted while plans are reevaluated.
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