Infrared Cameras Aid Prosecution for Break-in at N.Y. Firehouse

A Hempstead firefighter charged with third-degree burglary after breaking into a Uniondale firehouse thought he could take advantage of antiquated security, a top fire official and police said.

Firefighter Alan Jacoby, 27, was familiar with the security system at the firehouse at 577 Park Ave. because he had worked there for years. He figured turning off lights would render its security cameras useless, Uniondale Fire Commission chairman Mervyn Campbell said yesterday.

But Jacoby didn't know that the cameras had been upgraded to infrared since he left. The lenses pierced the dark, catching him on Sept. 12 as he rummaged through firetrucks and firefighting gear, Campbell and police said.

"He's in there prowling around at 3 in the morning," said Det. Lt. Andrew Fal of Nassau's First Squad. "He seemed to be going from place to place, truck to truck."

After his arrest Monday, Jacoby, of 17 Cynthia Ct. in Hempstead, told police he had just wanted to reclaim a hydraulic tool and a set of golf clubs he left behind. Jacoby couldn't be reached for comment.

Jacoby, also a New York City fire dispatcher, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Hempstead's First District Court. He was later released without bail pending his next court hearing Friday.

Campbell said the commission is investigating if anything was taken.

"He was trying to take advantage of us," Campbell said. "The safety of the firefighters and the residents have been breached."

Hempstead Fire Chief Robert Noonan said Jacoby, a member of his department for about four years, has been suspended.

"I really don't want to comment," he said. "I just prefer to let the investigation run its course."

Earlier this month, someone cut the lock of a rear entrance of the firehouse on at least four different occasions, Campbell said. Initially, there were no signs that anyone entered the firehouse.

To figure out who was responsible, Campbell and a firehouse supervisor reviewed digital recordings stored on in-house computers.

Recordings from a hidden rear camera showed Jacoby driving up, opening the trunk of his car and grabbing something he used to cut open the gate, Campbell said. Later, they watched as he made his way to the firetruck bay.

"You see him turn the lights off, but the infrared cameras picked him up," Campbell said.

After about 30 minutes, Jacoby left the way he came.

Campbell, who has known Jacoby since he was 9, said he once considered him like a son. He said Jacoby worked as a Uniondale firefighter from July 1997 through October 2004.

"It's betrayal," he said. "It's a brother firefighter. We are supposed to look out for each other."