Jeanne Sager | Democrat
VILLAGE OF LIBERTY Police Chief Robert Mir said his officers "love" the new cameras that cover downtown Liberty.
A new set of 'eyes' watching in Liberty
By Jeanne Sager
LIBERTY Rockwell was right somebody is watching us.
In downtown Liberty, it’s the police, who unveiled six cameras Friday afternoon all trained on separate sections of Main Street.
Funded by state monies earmarked by State Senator John Bonacic, the cameras went online in late July.
Within two hours, they had their first criminal on tape and behind bars.
Sullivan County’s Chief Assistant District Attorney Jim Farrell, the ADA assigned to work with Liberty’s Village Police, was standing in the station on Main Street for the demonstration that night.
He’s the one who ensured the drunk driving a car through Liberty that night is now sitting in Sullivan County Jail.
“We watched as it came down Main Street, swerving,” Farrell recalled. “Then the cameras were able to catch her sobriety test which she failed miserably.”
The woman had been using drugs and drinking, and this was her second driving while intoxicated offense. She pled guilty in court thanks in part to a DVD of the sobriety test burned by the police department off its new system.
“It’s kind of hard to fight those charges,” Farrell noted.
It was the first of many crimes caught by the new “member” of the Liberty Police force.
In fact the cameras were the next best option chosen by former Police Chief Mike DeFrank and Sullivan County Legislator Jodi Goodman during a discussion two years ago about how best to clean up downtown Liberty.
“Our storefront owners and our families did not feel safe entering our businesses, exiting our businesses or just hanging out on Main Street,” Goodman recalled.
Goodman, whose district includes the village, said she sat down with DeFrank to ask how she could help.
More officers on the streets was his first choice. Second? Cameras so the officers inside could monitor what’s going on outside.
Goodman called on Bonacic to help.
“He said, ‘Tell me how much and how fast do you need it?’” she recalled.
Answering that question was Rob Mir, at that time the department’s lieutenant who did the research needed to determine what kind of system would best serve the village.
Named chief this summer, Mir was happy to add the $50,000 camera project to his arsenal when he took command.
“There’s already less loitering going on on Main Street,” he said. “And the loiterers or the people on Main Street are much more careful, much more respectful.”
In addition to the DWI, the cameras have helped the police make several drug arrests and hand out court summons for criminal mischief.
The officers, he said, “love” the new system.
“The officers find themselves much more involved with what’s going on on Main Street,” Mir said. “When they’re in here, answering the phones, doing paperwork, essentially they’re patrolling Main Street at the same time.”
The dispatch room, manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, now has a large flat screen monitor suspended from the corner above the desk. It shows the view from all six village cameras.
To get an alternate view, police officers use a computer to move the camera from side to side, allowing it to pan in all directions. When night falls, the cameras automatically switch to infrared to continue feeding a quality picture back to the station.
When a crime is committed on tape, a command can be inputted into the computer to burn a CD or DVD of the tape for the district attorney’s office.
The views the cameras capture, Mir noted, are only those in the public eye. The cameras are focused on Main Street, with ability to pan into some of the side streets, and they are in plain view so any resident can find them if they look up.
“This is not big brother watching over you. We’re not peeking in windows of the houses or cars, ” said Sullivan County District Attorney Steve Lungen. “This is a public safety issue.
“When the police see something going on, they can come out and take care of it,” he said. “It allows the public to feel more secure.
“If we can enhance the police’s ability to do their jobs, it’s good for everybody,” Lungen added.