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NYC Mayor Announces $110 Million for Midtown Video Surveillance

May 03, 2010  | 

New York City will spend $110 million to extend a video surveillance network centered on Wall Street downtown, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced today.

The cameras would give the NYPD extended coverage between 30th and 60th streets and from the East River to the Hudson River.

The announcement came on a day when at least one high-profile law enforcement official called for more cameras to aid investigations.

John Timoney, a former NYPD captain, said New York officials should add a closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance system that would cover Times Square.

Timoney, a senior vice president with private security firm Andrews International, resigned as the Miami Police Chief in November. He worked as a captain in the Times Square area in the mid-1980s.

"The area is much safer now than it was back then," Timoney wrote in the statement obtained by POLICE Magazine. "It could be made even safer if Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was provided the proper funds for the high-tech CCTV camera system he wants to deploy in Midtown Manhattan. Some may argue that a CCTV system alone cannot "prevent" a terrorist act and this may be true."

Surveillance cameras may not prevent terrorist acts, however such systems have assisted in the follow-up investigations such as the July 7, 2005 bombing in London. The terrorist who blew up the bus was captured on the CCTV system making a phone call from a public phone.  Investigators were able to trace the phone call to the handlers and the "bomb factory," recovering the bomb making materials that would have been used in future bombings, according to Timoney.

Opponents of a CCTV system say privacy issues make such camera systems in public places untenable. The bigger concern, according to Timoney, is the handling of evidentiary footage.

"There have always been concerns with the inventory and safekeeping of the video tapes," according to Timoney. "There were also real concerns of someone misusing the tapes, especially if the tapes were of some individual in a compromising position."

He added, "However, these concerns are largely addressed with the new digital systems that can be stored easily and access to the files can be traced similarly to how we can tell if someone went on a computer to steal a private file or document. So the privacy concerns are not as daunting as they were in the past."

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