Law to allow cops to disarm car alarms |

Law to allow cops to disarm car alarms

BRECKENRIDGE – Amidst the complex development agreements, the controversies surrounding outdoor displays of merchandise and discussions about Highway 9 improvements, Breckenridge Town Council members also discuss the little things in life.

Such was the case Tuesday night, when they approved the first reading of an ordinance addressing car alarms. The ordinance will allow a police officer to break into a car whose alarm has been sounding continuously for 15 minutes or more and disarm the system. Officers will try to open locked doors using a “slim jim,” a tool they slide between the window and door to reach the locking mechanism.

“Now, police get a call on a car alarm, and they don’t have any authority to shut it off,” said Mayor Sam Mamula. “This makes the police feel comfortable that they can use reasonable means to get into a car to shut the alarm off.”

It’s not like car alarms are blaring all over town, said Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman.

“It’s not a big problem,” he said. “Maybe a half-dozen times a year we’ll get a complaint. It’s just very annoying at the time. Car alarms are nothing compared to the big picture.”

They’re annoying enough.

Ask the neighbors who live on Briar Rose Lane what they think of Mamula’s car alarm – a feature, he noted, that came with the car when he purchased it.

“I don’t know what it does,” he said. “A bear bumped into my car while he was looking for trash the other day. My poor neighbors. I slept through the whole thing. Someone could have been breaking into my car and I wouldn’t have known.”

Getting into a car isn’t always as easy as opening the door. Thieves and locksmiths can do it fastest.

According to Bruce Campbell of Around the Clock Lock, a slim jim will open only 12 to 15 percent of car doors. He carries an arsenal of about 30 tools to get into cars. The most common tool he uses is a small air bag that’s slipped between the frame and door and pumped up to allow him to reach in the car with a long-reach tool.

Campbell is more than familiar with car alarms.

“They’re a pain,” he said. “I don’t know of a good use for them. You touch them and they go off. And I don’t know of any case of a cop going to a car alarm except as a noise complaint. In a city, or around your house, an alarm might alert you, and you can come out and get shot at while you’re chasing them away. The really good professional crooks are in and out before the cops can respond. They’re not stopping car thefts; the thieves just get faster.”

“Nowadays you hear so many of them go off, you don’t even give them a second thought,” Holman said. “National statistics show that only 2 to 5 percent of the time there’s actually something inappropriate going on. You become numb to them.”

Campbell said he will open car doors for law enforcement officers for free, as he does for people whose children are locked in the car. But the new ordinance will at least give police the chance to take care of the problem before they have to call a locksmith, Mamula said.

The original ordinance indicated that the owner of a car whose alarm had gone off accidentally more than twice in any given month could be cited. But Holman said he didn’t want to deal with the extra work that would require.

And town councilmember Ernie Blake said he thought the whole thing was ridiculous.

“Do whatever you need to do to allow an officer to turn off the alarm,” he said. “Otherwise, we’re going to be regulating hangnails and everything else.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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