False Alarms Cut, 8 Suspects Seized

Camden City Electrical Bureau employe John R. Smith paints fire alarm box with iridescent cream "Firebug," useful in gather evidence against those who turn in false alarms.

Camden Courier-Post – July 12, 1972

By Joseph R. McCarthy, Courier-Post Staff

In an effort to reduce false alarms in Camden, the city fire and police departments are embarked on a program which resulted in the arrest of eight juveniles since July 1.

An iridescent cream, invisible to the naked eye, is spread on the pull hooks of first alarm boxes in areas of high incidence of false alarms.

Police and Firemen in unmarked cars then stake out the most likely fireboxes. The cars are equipped with ultra-violet ray “black” lights which are used to test a suspect’s hands and clothing for traces of the cream, which shows up under the special light.

According to Michael Speno, superintendent of the Camden police and fire alarms systems, the cream will not rub off and takes 24 to 36 hours to wash off.

The program began June 19 and is headed by Police Sgt. Alfred Randazzo and Fire Captain Vincent Orme Jr., of the fire marshall’s office.

All Fire Boxes from which the majority of false alarms were struck were surveyed. Once identified the fire boxes were staked out by both police and firemen.

The eight juveniles arrested have all been sent to the Lakeland Children’s Shelter as part of a get-tough push by the courts on false alarm pullers. Previously, most juveniles convicted of the crime were released in custody of their parents.

Randazzo and Orme said the program is needed because of an increase in false alarms.

In 1971 there was a total of 6,862 fire alarms pulled in the city. Some 2,998 were false. This year, as of Monday, 3,900 alarms have been recorded, of which 1,982 were false.

Each alarm costs the city $150, Randazzo and Orme said, in addition to risking the lives of both firemen and pedestrians. For example, they cited the case of one fireman who was accidentally killed three years ago while answering a false alarm.


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