CRIME-CAM PLAN FOR SUBWAY CARS
By JEREMY OLSHAN
May 23, 2006
Next stop, candid camera.
Closed-circuit TV cameras may be installed on thousands of subway cars to deter graffiti and other crimes, transit officials said yesterday.
The MTA is considering a variety of technologies currently used by transit systems in London, Paris, Hamburg, Munich and Australia, said Mike Lombardi, vice president for subways.
With major incidents of graffiti, window "scratchiti," and acid etching up nearly 400 percent since 2004, and much of it being done while the trains are in service, the digital cameras could save the agency millions, Lombardi said.
Although much of the subway system still employs 19th-century technology, the MTA has slowly been working on a variety of upgrades, from automatic train control to cellphone service to real-time train information.
The cameras are a natural fit, MTA board members said.
"It could probably stop other crime as well, and perhaps they could catch a terror suspect," board member Andrew Albert said.
Straphangers may also get an added sense of security from knowing the cameras are there.
"Some people feel insecure in a lonely subway car, and perhaps a camera will make them feel a little better," Albert said.
The agency has been quoted prices by various companies, but is looking for ways to narrow the scope of the system and cut down on the cost, officials said. Lombardi cautioned the project was still in the very preliminary stages.
"We still want to see what's out there and whether they really work," he said. "And then how much money that will be. Then we might put it out for bid."
The system would complement the 2,328 cameras already in use at 276 subway stations, officials said.
Additional cameras are also being added near the turnstiles at 60 stations.
Installing cameras in trains is no problem - the project is focusing on establishing a means of digitally recording and cataloging the data.
Unlike the MTA's $300 million anti-terror camera project, these cameras would not transmit unusual activity as it happens, but provide a record for later investigation.
Several hundred cameras have already been installed as part of that anti-terrorism project, which is due to be completed in 2009, MTA officials said.
The subway-crime camera initiative has been prompted in large part by the scourge of graffiti inside and outside of the cars. Glass-etching paste, which can be purchased in art-supply stores permanently damages windows.
Windows on the 1,800 newest cars have been lined with Mylar, which can be replaced much more cheaply.
The agency is considering a program to replace the windows on more than 5,000 subway cars, at a cost of $10 million, and then include an annual $5 million in the budget for the Mylar.
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