On call

Hey Ace: Last night I called the cops because I heard an untoward noise in my neighborhood. Will I get fined if I call too many times?—Buzzy B.

Buzzy: Funny you should mention that. Years ago, a less wise—and, curiously, less handsome—version of yours truly whittled away the midnight hours by stirring up trouble with his buddies. On occasion, a cop would pull up and holler, “Get back home!” We all assumed he just stumbled upon us, but later Ace found out the truth: It was Mother Atkins who called him every time. That woman never missed a beat; Ace takes after her, natch.

Ace’s pals always thought it was peculiar how that same officer showed up each time. And how he never responded to any other mother’s calls. And how once, when Father Atkins was out of town, the officer stayed all night to make sure Ace didn’t sneak out. He must have owed Mother Atkins a big favor.

Not once, Ace noticed, did the officer ever say anything about a fine. Of course, those were simpler times, so Ace called his buddy (no relation to the aforementioned “buddies”), Sergeant Richard Hudson at the Charlottesville Police Department, to ask him: Do you have to pay a fine for calling the station too much?

“You absolutely do not,” Hudson said. “We never charge for anything.” …Except for false alarms, Ace discovered, like from a burglary in an office or home.

“The first time’s free,” the Sarge told Ace, in regards to responding to those alarms. After that, there’s a fine. Of course, he assured Ace that if an alarm goes off because of a wind or electrical storm—“an act of God,” he said—there’s no fine for that. But if it’s set off because of user error or a malfunction that the owner could have corrected, that’s a problem.

You, clever reader, must have realized by now that Ace is talking literal alarms (the kind that emits a maddening noise). But there’s another kind of false alarm that Hudson says can land you in a courtroom: false alarms due to “bogus calls.” Say, if Mother Atkins had told the officer that Ace was at the local golf course test-driving the carts. She could be in big trouble for that. Actually, that’s a bad example…

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com.

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