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NYPD Offers Details Of New Public Surveillance Camera Program

Solana Pyne / NY 1 | April 13 2006

Ever get the feeling you're being watched? Just wait a while. The Police Department is in the process of setting up hundreds of cameras to keep silent watch on many streets, and all the people who walk them. NY1’s Solana Pyne filed this report.

They're in the subways. Private businesses have them. But NYPD officials say the police have only installed a few dozen of their own surveillance cameras on the streets of the city.

"The system will consist of 505 cameras to be installed in two phases in a total of 253 locations, first in Brooklyn and then in the remaining boroughs,” said NYPD Deputy Inspector Delayne Hurley. “The locations have been selected primarily on the basis of combating concentrated pockets of crime."

A pilot project is already underway in the 83rd Precinct, and Inspector Hurley said that the system will be expanded within a matter of weeks.

Hurley spoke at a City Council Public Safety Committee hearing Tuesday, giving the most detailed description yet of the department's plans to get cameras onto the streets of the city.

“The recorded image will be digitally stored, enabling investigators to access it at a future date if necessary,” Hurley said. “Camera locations will have signs posted nearby clearly stating that the area is being monitored by the Police Department."

And soon, Lower Manhattan is slated to get hundreds more cameras as part of a new counter-terrorism initiative there. It’s a project so new, Hurley said he could tell the council little about it.

“Because this program is under development, I will not be able to provide further detail about it at this time," he said.

Police officials also were unable to provide enough details to calm worries about how surveillance recordings will be used and how misuse will be detected and punished.

“What's the plan? And how is the department holding officers to what standards? And how are they training officers and setting up a system so that our rights are not needlessly violated?" asked Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Committee Chairman Peter Vallone Jr. said he was frustrated by the lack of information officials provided at the hearing, but he says the department promised to follow up with more.

He also said cameras will make us safer.

“My first concern is that we need to get this rolled out as soon as possible. Video cameras will help us deter terrorism,” Vallone said. “But number two, we need to do this within proper guidelines to ensure that people's privacy is protected."

Meanwhile, the NYPD seems to be proceeding full steam ahead.

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