Alarm issues target homeowners

By Steve Estes

In the rush to control every aspect of building in Monroe County, our elected leaders and their staffs have, we believe, given criminals a leg up on the rest of us.

The next question must be…how?

Monroe County requires a building permit to paint a house. There are only two types of paint you can buy for exterior painting work, and only two ways to put that paint on. That would seem a no-brainer.

The need for the permit is because the work comes to more than $1,000, and for that you need a permit, even if you do it yourself because you have to charge yourself labor.

Monroe County requires a permit to repair a leaking outside water line. The pipe generally used is PVC. There are only two glues and two types of pipe. So what is a three-minute job becomes a process that embroils a homeowner in the permitting pit that is Monroe County.

And we’re told that the reason a permit is needed is because you are breaking into the home’s structural component…plumbing.

Okay so basically we need a permit in Monroe County to do most anything except lay pea rock. We’ve even seen homeowners required to get a permit to put landscaping blocks in the driveway or yard.

But recently Key West stepped out into the criminal-friendly territory of forcing homeowners and businesses who have alarm systems at their facility to register said alarm system with the city, or face a fine for not doing so.

While the very thought of that does not sit well with us, there is a little longer-range thinking to do here.

Any city data base is public record. All one has to do is file a public records request asking for the information in that database and the city is required to dispense that information.

We have to question the wisdom of even holding that database. And we can only hope that if the city holds that database, it does so without names and addresses of the permit holders.

And then we learn that the county requires a building permit to hook up an alarm system, and of course, all of those permit applications are public record, most of which can be found just by using an online search.

And every building permit requires an address.

The reason we’re given for needing a permit for an alarm system, is that generally one must break into the home’s existing wiring to install that system.

But what we have done is make it easy for a burglar who would like to target homes and businesses with no alarms systems to find that information at the press of a mouse button.

We have announced to the criminal world which homes are protected by alarms and which are not.

That would seem to be rather valuable information for a home invasion artist.

People say that in order to be a criminal you have to be lacking certain cognitive skills. That wasn’t the case with Bernie Madoff, or Scott Rothstein, highly intelligent men who ran multi-billion dollar criminal enterprises for years.

And our guess is that burglars who have been in their trade for a number of years and haven’t been caught probably aren’t as lacking in cognitive skills as we might want to believe.

So we go and hand the criminals among us another tool to use to pinpoint exactly which homes and businesses would be easier marks than others.

And if they dig deep enough into the county’s permit files, they’ll probably find information about permanently installed safes in some homes and businesses.

So we as homeowners do what we can to safeguard our homes from crime, only to have our government give out information that makes us an easier target.

There’s something not quite right about that.

So now let’s see what our leadership decides should be done about the situation.

County staff won’t advocate change. That’s job security with all those permits. It’s up to our policy makers to make changes so that the policy doesn’t target us.

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