Residents More Than Willing To Look Other Way On Privacy

NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — As many as 500 cameras have been placed in nearly every corner of three of the busiest transit hubs in New York City – in the stairwells and on the platform.

All of them are keeping a close watch on who and what’s going in and out of our subways.

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t waste time talking about the subways, “which we know terrorists regard as what they would call high value targets.”

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Bloomberg, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Jay Walder announced the city’s newest security initiative on Monday.

Hundreds of MTA subway security cameras placed in Grand Central, Penn Station and Times Square are now directly piped into the NYPD’s security operation center, allowing police eyes in places where they didn’t have them before.

“And seated here in the operation center … we have police officers reviewing this information 24 hours a day,” Kelly told CBS 2’s Scott Rapoport.

It’s part of a plan that was initiated in 2005. The MTA cameras are now joining the more than 1,000 security cameras that are already in place in lower Manhattan, on which the NYPD keeps a watchful eye.

It’s a significant move in the wake of May’s failed Times Square bombing and the plot of Najibullah Zazi year ago to bomb subway trains.

“We are also beginning to use software that identifies potentially suspicious objects or behaviors,” Kelly said.

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Earlier this year, Mayor Bloomberg went to London on a fact-finding trip involving that city’s vast network of 12,000 cameras monitoring the train system.

It’s something MTA chief Walder is familiar with and something he said makes sense for New York.

“We’ve taken on the unwanted distinction as one of the leading terror targets in the world,” Walder said.

News of the move was greeted fondly by a lot of subway riders.

“I think it’s a very good idea quite honestly,” one person said.

“Absolutely. Why not? Like, it’s our protection,” added Blake Clendenin of Hell’s Kitchen.

“It’s an invasion of privacy, but if I’m in the subway I like the cops looking over my shoulder,” added Barry Zimmerman.

And the mayor and the police commissioner said they’re not done yet, with more camera hook-ups coming soon.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said it has questions about the surveillance program regarding privacy issues and who has access to the information gathered.

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It said it has previously sued the NYPD and Department of Homeland Security for access to that information and that both of those suits are ongoing.