N. Y. attorney general nixes fake detectors

Sunday, August 1, 2004

ALBANY, N.Y. - New York’s Attorney General Eliot Spitzer may have stopped an upstate retailer from selling surveillance cameras in the form of a non-working smoke detector, but his actions have done little to cease industry discussion on the subject.

“I’m glad to see someone enforcing it,” said Gary Pollack, marketing manager for Edwards Systems Technology. “You can’t make people assume there’s fire protection when there’s not.”

Earlier this year, the attorney general targeted Spy Outlet, retailer of surveillance products, because the store offered a non-working smoke detectors, was in violation of New York State law. The smoke detectors have been recalled because the law states installation of non-working detectors creates a false sense of security.

Spy Outlet is based in Tonawanda, N.Y., and operates a second store in Rochester.

“Bottomline, they just went after me,” said Spy Outlet owner Robert J. Crowley. “I was a single target in the whole industry because of one fire marshal.”

Crowley settled the case by paying $1,500 in a civil penalty, notifying those customers he had records of selling the devices to and posting an advertisement alerting customers of the recall.

No one contacted the company as a result of the recall notice, he said. But the publicity has driven customers to the company’s doors and web site.

“My business went crazy after this,” recalls Crowley, who sells numerous covert surveillance systems.

To comply with the New York state law, the Spy Outlet now offers a functional smoke detector video camera, priced at $149 each.

Crowley made a $5 adjustment in the devices to make them operational fire detectors, he said.