Catasauqua police station: then and now
Back in 2013, when the idea of a municipal building was still just a glimmer, one driving force was to have an updated police department along with a co-located fire department.
“We are not looking for a gilded palace, but we do need some enhancements to the layout,” Police Chief Douglas Kish said then.
Fast forward to the new building. Now, if there is a prisoner who needs to be locked up, there are two cells available. The cells are not comfortable, but they can hold someone. Under the old system, the bicycles stored in the cells had to be removed before a prisoner could be locked up.
High on Kish’s list of must-haves was a safe room. A safe room allows anyone in a precarious situation to have access to an escape route. The entry foyer in the new station serves that purpose.
Training rooms and conference rooms were another administrative requirement. The police have rooms in a secure section of the building, and there are others scattered throughout the complex.
Kish is keen on using technology to upgrade the effectiveness of the police force. After experimenting with different systems, Catasauqua, along with other municipalities in the county, adopted TraCS, a comprehensive system from TEG Software out of Portersville.
“The system has wide acceptance,” Kish said. “It is used in Lehigh County to keep track of citations, warnings and crash reports.”
Another program, crimemapping.com, allows residents to peek at crime reports around their home.
With the trend to all-digital reporting and tracking, the software system is critical. The old station did not have backup power. The new station can rely on its backup power as long as the generator can keep operating.
There was a little hiccup that has since been corrected. Police data needed to be secure and separated from the other IT systems in the complex.
“Our system was not secure. It was not isolated from other systems in the building,” Kish said.
That problem was corrected with wiring and software changes. No one can accidentally get into the police computers.
Getting suspects into the old police station was a hassle. Officers had to escort detainees through the office with ongoing concerns about safety for the officers and administrators handling routine functions. Now police can bring a cruiser into the garage and escort a detainee into the station through a private door using a secure hallway. Interrogation rooms are directly accessible and soundproof.
Kish is confident that with the new systems in place, they are able to respond to an emergency.
“We questioned if we would be able to handle a large emergency from the old location, but the new offices will serve us well. An emergency is when we are needed the most, so we must be prepared for it,” he said.
Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, 4500 Education Park Drive, Schnecksville, has police simulators available. Students can train on those and, ultimately, move to local offices as interns.
Crime Watch programs have been off and on in the borough.
“We have incidents and then the group dwindles,” Kish said. “Maybe this can be revived.”
There is room in the station for more community involvement. Kish wants to concentrate on getting procedures in place for the police force. Mayor Barbara Schlegel and the chief will look at community programs to support the police department as it moves forward.