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Alarm Permits

Find resources on alarm permits, appeal process and answers to frequently asked questions.
Deputy speaking with someone at a residential door

Approximately 98% of all alarm calls received by dispatch are false alarms. Washington County established an alarm ordinance to discourage these costly false alarms, which take deputies off patrol where they could be answering actual emergency calls. 

The Washington County Sheriff's Office issues and maintains over 16,000 alarm permits for residential and commercial properties in unincorporated Washington County, Banks, Cornelius, Gaston and Hillsboro. Alarm permits are valid for one year and must be renewed annually. To check your property address to see which jurisdiction serves you, visit Who Serves My Neighborhood.

If you have questions about business or residential alarms, please email or call the Alarm Permit Unit at 503-846-2519, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. 

How to apply for an alarm permit

If you live in Unincorporated Washington County or in the cities of Cornelius, Gaston or Hillsboro, you can apply in one of two ways:

  • Print the Alarm Permit Registration Form, and submit it along with a check or money order payable to Washington County Sheriff's Office for your first year's fee of $20. You may submit the application via mail or our drop-box located in our Hillsboro lobby 24/7.
  • You can register online using our secure website which will also allow you to pay the $20 alarm permit fee by either credit card or e-check.

Fines and penalties

The following fines and penalties are assessed for false alarm calls according to a progressive schedule.  If you believe you have been fined in error, follow the appeal process listed below.

Alarm System Permit Fee

Residential and Business users (Burglary/Robbery/Hold-up/Panic Alarm) - $20
Government and Political Units - Exempt

False Alarm Response Fines- Residential & Business

1st in permit year - $13
2nd in permit year - $38/car + $13 fee
3rd in permit year - $38/car + $13 fee
4th and above in permit year - $38/car + $126 penalty

Governmental Political Units

1st through 5th in permit year - Exempt
6th and above in permit year - $113

Additional Penalties

Failure to renew permit (after 60 days late) - $17
Late Payment of fines/fees (after 60 days past due) - $17
Failure to obtain permit within 60 days of installation of alarm - $17
Reinstatement fee, once revoked (after 90 days past due) - $30

Citations for Ordinance Violations

Non-permitted alarm users that create any type of alarm call - $500 citation
Revoked alarm users that create a bonafide alarm call - $500 citation
Revoked alarm users that create a false alarm call - $1000 citation

Reduce false alarms

The three main causes of false alarms are user error, installation or service errors, and equipment failure, with almost 80% a result of user error. 

There are easy steps you and your alarm dealer can take to prevent false alarms.

  • Ensure that you and others who use the security system are fully educated on its proper operation. 
  • Securely close and lock all protected doors and windows.
  • If you are leaving your home or business, close the door tight.  
  • Keep pets, balloons, fans, heaters, etc. away from motion sensor areas.
  • Know and rehearse the process to cancel an accidental alarm.
  • Anyone with your key should know this process.  If you give them your key, give them the code.
  • Know how much time you have to leave after you arm your system and to disarm your system when you enter.

If you accidentally active your alarm:

  • Wait for your alarm company or central monitoring station to call, and give them your password or ID card number.
  • Do not leave your home or business until you have talked with your monitoring station. If they do not call you when the alarm activates, have their number posted by your control panel and contact them to cancel the police dispatch.
  • DO NOT call 911 or the Sheriff's Office Alarm Unit to cancel an alarm activation - you must call your monitoring station.
  • You can arrange to have your alarm monitoring station call you or another designated person first, before the police are called, whenever your alarm is activated.
  • If you are aware of a problem with the system, you can prevent police being dispatched by contacting your alarm monitoring company and providing the proper password.

When to contact your alarm company:

  • If there are changes in contact names, responsible parties, or new phone contact numbers.  
  • If you plan home improvements or renovation projects
  • If you plan on being away from home for a given period of time (on vacation for example), be sure to inform the alarm company of the dates and who to contact in your absence.
  • If you plan to change your alarm system batteries causing an interruption in your system’s power supply.
  • If you acquire a pet or hire domestic help.

Enhanced Call Verification

The Washington County Alarm Ordinance requires Enhanced Call Verification on all monitored properties in its jurisdiction (8.12.110).  Request your alarm monitoring company to call multiple people before requesting emergency dispatch.  This has been shown nationally to reduce false alarms by over 50%.

Cross Zoning

"Cross Zoning" requires a perimeter and an interior motion alarm to both trip within a specified period of time before summoning a public safety response. Cross Zoning is based on the idea that an actual burglar at the alarm site will trip more than one zone, whereas a loose pet, decoration, balloon or insect may not.

Appeal process

A person or business may appeal fees or fines assessed against them. The appeal must be in writing, state the reasons you believe the fee or fine was not warranted, and should include any supporting documents.

Submit appeal requests by email [email protected] or mail to:

  • WCSO Alarm Coordinator
    215 SW Adams Ave
    Hillsboro, OR 97123

Please review the definitions of false alarms and bonafide alarms (see the Frequently Asked Questions below) before submitting your appeal.  

Appeals are not generally successful in the follow situations:

  • Faulty, defective or malfunctioning equipment supplied by an alarm company.
  • Improper installation, maintenance or mistakes by an alarm company.
  • Alarm activations that occur while alarm technicians are repairing or servicing the alarm system.
  • An occurrence where no evidence or criminal activity is present.
  • Errors made by private contractors, maids, cleaning crews, visitors, etc.
  • Items in the home or business that move and cause motion detectors to activate (i.e. curtains, signs, balloons, etc.).
  • Doors or windows that become loose and cause a break in the contacts that activate the alarm system.
  • Caretakers who watch homes or businesses when owners are away, who activate the alarm in error, and cannot cancel the alarm because they do not know the required code or passwords. 
  • Pets, rodents or wildlife movement in or near the home or business.

Note: This list is intended as a guide to assist you in deciding whether to appeal a false alarm or contact your alarm company for discussion; it does not cover every situation where an appeal may be denied.

FAQs

Every alarm user (residential or commercial) operating an alarm system in unincorporated Washington County or in the cities of Banks, Cornelius, Hillsboro or Gaston must obtain an alarm permit from the Sheriff’s Office. A separate permit is required for each alarmed site or building.

Washington County Ordinance 8.12.030 defines an alarm system as "any assembly or equipment, mechanical or electrical, arranged to signal the occurrence of an illegal entry or other activity requiring urgent attention and to which police are expected to respond."

Yes, even unmonitored alarm systems need to have a permit. If an alarm system is active, most have a siren or other signal that go off if the alarm is tripped and police are typically called to respond.

No, car alarms do not need to be registered.

The permit fees and false alarm fines are used to offset the county's administrative costs of the program and time spent by deputies on false alarm calls.

Washington County Ordinance 8.12.030 defines a false alarm as any "alarm signal, capable of eliciting a response by police when a situation requiring the police does not in fact exist." There are many common causes of false alarms, such as pets, system malfunctions, mistakes made by occupants of the premises, etc.

Bonafide alarm examples include when there are signs of actual or attempted forced entry, or when a neighbor reports seeing suspicious activity on the property. Fines are only imposed for false alarms.

Washington County Ordinance 8.12 also provides that alarm activations will not be treated as a false alarm if caused by obvious natural circumstances such as a wind storm or an earthquake. Additionally, if there is notification from the alarm company or the alarm user that the system is faulty or that the user erred, and that notification is received before an officer arrives on the scene, the alarm will not be charged as a false alarm.

  • At 30 days past due, a past due letter and invoice will be mailed to you
  • At 60 days past due, a $17 late payment penalty will be added to any unpaid alarm fee or fine
  • At 90 days past due, your alarm permit will be revoked and you will be notified in writing. A Revocation Reinstatement Fee of $30 is added to your account at the time of revocation

Yes, Washington County Ordinance 8.12.127 requires revocation of your permit for failure to pay any fee, fine, or penalty within 90 days. The ordinance also allows the sheriff to revoke your alarm permit for excessive false alarms during any rolling 12-month period.

In addition, any unpaid false alarm fines that caused the revocation may be sent to collections. When this happens, the alarm user must pay off the balance of their alarm account, as well as any related collection charges before the account can be removed from "revoked" status.

If you create any kind of alarm calls while revoked (bonafide, authorized cancel, audible alarm) - you may be issued a $500 citation for each activation. (Ordinance 8.12.040)

If you create a false alarm while revoked - you may be issued a $1,000 citation for each false alarm response. (Ordinance 8.12.128)

If your alarm permit was revoked for failure to pay fees or fines, you will be required to pay all outstanding fees, fines, and penalties to reinstate it including any collection charges, if applicable.

If your alarm permit was revoked due to excessive false alarms, in addition to paying all outstanding fees and fines, you will also be required to submit a written plan to identify and eliminate the cause of the false alarms. The plan must be acceptable to the sheriff for reinstatement of the alarm permit, or the sheriff may temporarily reinstate the permit for a period of time to determine whether the plan for alleviating the false alarms is effective.

Location

Alarm Permit Unit

215 SW Adams Ave
Hillsboro, Oregon 97123
Tuesday: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm