On Wednesday, Mayor Robert Restaino announced funding for the Niagara Falls Police Department, Niagara Falls Fire Department, and local business owners that will “significantly” improve safety and security throughout the City of Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls Police Department
Restaino is dedicating $4.6 million in American Rescue Plan funding to the Niagara Falls Police Department. The money will be used to help improve the safety of both officers and members of the community.
Restaino’s team said, “Over the past few years, police body cameras have become increasingly important to departments throughout Western New York and across the country. They are used to help protect police officers and citizens against false accusations, claims of misconduct and abuse. Body cameras increase transparency and accountability of officers. They also help prevent and deescalate confrontational situations between officers and civilians.”
The Niagara Falls Police Department started using body cameras in 2015. While the cameras have assisted officers in doing their daily jobs, the technological quality often presents significant limitations.
Through the ARP funding, the Niagara Falls Police Department was able to purchase 90 new Axon body cameras (Axon Body 3). These cameras offer a substantial improvement in video quality as well as reliability. Restaino’s team said, “The crisp, clear audio and video will allow officers to better serve and protect citizens in our community.”
Virtual Reality Training
With the ARP funding Restaino dedicated to the department, Niagara Falls Police purchased brand-new virtual reality training technology (Axon).
This new equipment will allow officers and their supervisors to simulate specific situations – similar to calls officers would respond to. Rather than train for a situation in-the-moment, Niagara Falls Police officers can now train in a simulated environment – which can be safer for not only officers, but also citizens. Officers who are training will wear a headset (Vive Focus 3) to experience virtual situations while an instructor watches those simulated interactions on a tablet (Samsung Galaxy) to monitor the officer’s reactions.
“It is imperative for police officers to have the proper tools they need to safely and efficiently do their jobs,” Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John Faso said. “This new technology will help our officers be able to do that – from training right through to their work in the community. The virtual reality technology will help officers to be properly prepared to respond to nearly any situation they may encounter, while the new body cameras will ensure both officers and members of the community are protected during all calls. I’d like to thank Mayor Restaino for supporting our officers and making sure their safety – and that of the community – is paramount.”
Officers will begin training with the new body cameras and VR technology within the next few weeks.
Restaino is also using ARP funding to create two substations for the Niagara Falls Police Department. They will serve as tools to enable officers to respond to calls quicker and more efficiently.
The new substations are located strategically in different areas of the city: the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building (3001 Ninth St.) and the Niagara Falls Water Treatment Plant (5815 Buffalo Ave.).
While these substations are not open to the public, they will serve as “launching pads” for police.
Niagara Falls Fire Department
Restaino is dedicating $4.8 million in American Rescue Plan funding to the Niagara Falls Fire Department. The money will be used to purchase new equipment and make significant upgrades to fire stations.
Thermal Imaging Cameras
Restaino’s team said, “When firefighters enter burning buildings, they are often faced with significant visibility limitations. The dark, smoky buildings can make it nearly impossible to safely and quickly find the source of fire, or any potential victims inside.”
With the ARP funding, the Niagara Falls Fire Department will purchase seven new thermal imaging cameras (Flir 53).
Restaino’s team said, “While Niagara Falls firefighters have used thermal imaging cameras for 25 years, the new technology will offer a significant upgrade from the department’s current cameras. The new devices show sharper, cleaner images, as well as temperature readings.”
“These new thermal imaging cameras are a game-changer for Niagara Falls firefighters,” said Niagara Falls Fire Chief Joseph Pedulla. “They will literally serve as firefighters’ eyes before they ever enter a burning building. It is crucial for firefighters to have every tool necessary to do their jobs – their lives are at stake each time they answer a call. I applaud Mayor Restaino for recognizing that simple fact. His support and respect for the men and women in the Niagara Falls Fire Department is second to none.”
The new thermal imaging cameras are already in-use.
“I am proud to be able to dedicate this money to the Niagara Falls Police and Fire departments,” Restaino said. “Police officers and firefighters regularly put their lives on the line in order to keep our families and neighbors safe. This funding through the American Rescue Plan will ensure these brave men and women have every tool they need in order to not only do their jobs, but also to keep the community and themselves safe. I’d also like to thank Congressman Brian Higgins for his tireless efforts in helping to secure this federal assistance.”
Higgins said, “Public safety is an essential component of strong residential neighborhoods, growing tourism opportunities, and thriving business districts. This investment of federal American Rescue Plan funding in training and technology will better protect residents, visitors, businesses and dedicated City of Niagara Falls police officers and firefighters.”
Restaino is launching a new program to help local business owners better protect their property. With funding from the American Rescue Plan, business owners will be given up to $700 to purchase a security kit.
Restaino is providing business owners the opportunity to obtain a basic security system. The program covers only the cost of the equipment; business owners are responsible for any installation and/or subscription costs.
In order to qualify, a business’ license fees must be paid and up-to-date. In addition, business owners will be required to show proof of purchase, as well as comply with an inspection by police. As part of the contract, business owners must agree to provide police with any video and/or pictures upon request. They must also keep the system in operation for at least three years.
“When our neighbors decide to open businesses in the city, they take a chance on our community. They invest their own time and money into their project with the hopes of making a living,” Restaino said. “For any business owner, protecting their investments is of the utmost importance. We want to make that easier by helping offset the cost of security systems. By helping members of our community invest in the security of their businesses, we are also helping to keep our neighborhoods safer.”
The city will announce details on how to apply for this program in the coming weeks.