The case of a former fire department lieutenant who pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in April has prompted city investment in nearly 40 surveillance cameras and a keycard entry system.
(TNS) — The city of Middletown will install cameras and card-swipe technology at its three firehouses so it knows who is coming and going.
Employees and volunteers will soon use their city-provided identification cards to swipe into all Middletown Fire Department building entrances, Mayor Joe DeStefano said. Nearly 40 cameras will also be installed as part of a $103,000 security package the city is considering, which will be paid for using money from the city fund balance, DeStefano said.
"It protects the employee and the employer," said Don Luis, chief of the Middletown Fire Department.
Amping up security at the firehouses comes in the aftermath of the "Operation Bread, White and Blues" drug-rings case, in which former Middletown fire Lt. Paul G. Smith, of Deerpark, pleaded guilty as a drug trafficker in April and was officially terminated last month. Smith had reportedly used the city's Central Firehouse for drug sales and to hold conspiracy-related meetings.
"These are prudent, realistic measures that we are taking, and we have to spend a few bucks, and we're going to do it right," DeStefano said.
The new surveillance systems will be installed at the Central Firehouse on East Main Street, the Waalkill Street Station on Wallkill Avenue, and the North Street Station that houses Phoenix Engine Company No. 4 and Ontario Hose Company No. 5, Luis said.
"People have said they're there to watch what the employee does and that's not a fact," Luis said. "They're there for everybody's protection: the employee's protection, the city's protection."
Installing the additional security is a "good thing," Luis said.
Security improvements won't be confined to the firehouses, DeStefano said. He said by the end of the year, a plan should be in place to have recording systems and card-swipe access at all municipal buildings.
"These are the times," DeStefano said.
The city received one bid for the project from New York Security Systems Inc. in Scotchtown, DeStefano said.
The estimate included the option for a true lease, which would allow the city to upgrade equipment through the company as technology advances, DeStefano said. Once the city reaches a deal with the security systems company, the equipment will be installed within 90 days, he said.
The additional security measures shouldn't deter the public, or families with small children and firefighter curiosities, from stopping by the station to sneak a peek at the trucks and engines. The first floor of the firehouses will still be available to the public, Luis said.
©2019 The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.