Hundreds of transit cameras went live Monday inside the New York City Police Department’s Lower Manhattan Security Coordination Center.
It’s part of a new security initiative made possible by a joint effort with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Officials will now be able use over 500 subway cameras to monitor major transit hubs around the clock, including Times Square, Penn Station, and Grand Central Station.
The NYPD will now have real time access to MTA cameras that were always there but not synched in to the “ring of steel.”
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says the additional cameras will expand the city’s ability to monitor crime and thwart terrorist threats.
“These cameras are trained on turnstiles, platforms, tracks and the entrances to subway tunnels,” said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. “We can zoom in on individual images and control the angle of cameras remotely from this location.”
“Since 9/11 we’ve taken on an unwanted distinction as one of the leading terror targets in the world and the reality is that stopping terrorist masterminds is not our expertise,” said MTA Chairman & CEO Jay Walder.
Officials say by 2011 Lower Manhattan and Midtown will be under one security net that will include over 3,000 cameras.
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the program and released a statement that reads, in part, “There is virtually no public space left in Midtown or Lower Manhattan unwatched by government cameras. And yet there has been virtually no public discourse about this project and no study on this project’s efficacy or privacy implications.”
Meanwhile, New Yorkers who spoke with NY1 didn’t seem to mind the additional cameras.
“I know when I’m taking the train late at night, it’d be nice to know, it’s good to know they’re always watching,” said one straphanger.
“While it’s kind of Big Brother, it seems like they’re watching everything that you’re doing, at the same time it gives me a sense of security,” said another.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also voiced his support for the project, saying the cameras are there to protect, not intrude.
“We live in a world where technology gives us more information and the issue is do you use it intelligently. You can think of it as taking away freedoms, but I prefer to look at it as this is what is guaranteeing our freedoms,” said the mayor.
The NYPD says images caught on the cameras are held for only 30 days unless they are part of an investigation.