Home Subway Security Coming soon-ish: cameras in the subway cars

Coming soon-ish: cameras in the subway cars

by Benjamin Kabak

Get ready to smile for your MTA overlords. Over a year after the MTA first started grumbling about putting security cameras in subway cars, the security plan may get off the ground sometime this year. Or maybe next year. No one really knows yet.

What we do know is that the MTA will begin one of their pilot programs that will see suveillance cameras in subway cars. This program isn’t about terrorism; it’s about subway security and vandalism, plain and simple. New York 1 has more:

An initiative to put surveillance cameras onboard subway cars took another small step forward Monday as the MTA announced a pilot program to install cameras on two subway cars.

The prototype cars will be the new R160 model, now in service on the L, N, J, M and Z lines.

Transit officials say there is no timetable in place yet, but that the pilot could be underway late this year or early next.

A similar pilot is already underway on buses. About half the Manhattan bus fleet has been outfitted with cameras as part of a $5 million pilot program, which officials say has been successful in combating vandalism.

Now, that’s quite the pilot program. Installing cameras in two subway cars should have the same deterrent effect as asking shouting an empty car while its alarm is going off for 50 minutes in a row. But joking aside, it’s about time.

At first, when the MTA announced their desires for security cameras in the subway, I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea on privacy grounds. Did we really want someone spying on us at all hours of the day as we ride the subways?

But as more and more officials spoke about the need for cameras, I warmed up to the idea. As it is, the city is awash in surveillance cameras, and placing cameras on the subways should make potential perps think twice about the crimes they may commit. Hopefully, cameras would cut back on subway vandalism and incidents of harassment on trains simply by their virtue of existence.

Civil libertarians concerned with privacy have reason to object, but I feel the good of the cameras far outweighs the bad. And besides, no one is going to track down hours of worthless tape for the sake of spying. The videos instead should be used as a review mechanism for crimes committed.

It is of course a bit dismaying that this pilot program won’t get off the ground for months and that it will encompass few cars. In Washington, D.C, and London, the Metro and the Underground have long been outfitted with cameras. While we could argue long and hard about the successes and failures of the cameras in those two cities, the fact that the surveillance programs even exist should be enough for the MTA to roll out more than a two-car test run. As is it, this is an idea long past due.

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ScottE April 29, 2008 - 8:23 am

The “pilot program” is probably to make sure they can get the technology to work reliably, not to test its effectiveness. There have been plenty of larger-scale installations (i.e. the train arrival signs on the L line) which don’t always work well.

The test should make sure that the cameras are positioned in the right place, make sure that you don’t get fuzzy video, or none at all, and that the images can be viewed or recorded according to plan. It might also serve as a benchmark for how much recording capacity they need.

If it actually stops crime on two cars, or even more outrageous, if a new employee is hired to simply monitor two cars’ worth of video, I’ll be shocked.

Oh, and the L is using R160s? I thought they were all R143s.

Streetsblog » Today’s Headlines April 29, 2008 - 8:59 am

[…] (Post)Marty Markowitz Looking for New Driver (News) MTA Tests Anti-Graffiti Subway Cameras (News, Second Ave Sagas) Filed by Brad Aaron under Today’s Headlines Link Digg This Email […]

Boris April 29, 2008 - 9:32 am

I suppose this is inevitable, but since “monitoring technology” is thankfully still in its infancy, there is as of yet no software that can identify individual people or their actions from tape. A human must still watch and process the video. Can you imagine a (paid!) MTA employee dozing through hour after hour of tape of subway riders similarly dozing?

The first thing a vandal will do is spraypaint the camera lens.

It’s hard to imagine this system producing anything useful. I can only see baneful ends… Big Brother’s encroaching, ever-watchful eye upon us.

Maik April 29, 2008 - 9:48 am

The “good” will not only not outweigh the bad; the good simply doesn’t exist.

The subway system of Berlin, Germany recently starting rolling out in-train cameras, and they had a scientific study accompany the project. The results were completely clear: The effect of in-train cameras on security and crime rates is zero. Not small, not very small, but absolutely zero. The cameras were shown to reduce crime not at all, not even a little during the one-year study.

The BVG continued the camera project anyway and tried to keep the study from being published. They now argue that the cameras will at least help people “feel” safer.

Similar results are available from London, UK.

Security cameras are useless.

Alon Levy April 30, 2008 - 2:01 am

And besides, no one is going to track down hours of worthless tape for the sake of spying.

Why not? It’s good blackmail material. It also invites bribes: if you want to track someone down, you pay a surveillance employee to let you look at tapes of him enter and exit the subway car, so that you’ll know which station he gets off at.

The Boss April 30, 2008 - 1:53 pm

Finally, cameras in the subway, something that could be useful in the courts. These cameras should have been installed years ago.

After the MTA finish testing their reliablity, could you please put it on board every train in the system. Also, you could you place camera in the stations? It will certainly help reduce crime in the subway and catch does vandalizing subway property.

Cap'n Transit April 30, 2008 - 8:52 pm

Hm, the NYCLU was pretty active on the cameras and congestion pricing issue. Where are they on cameras in the subways? The last press release was in 2006.

Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog » Blog Archive » Facing overly ambitious timeframe, subway security cameras face more delays June 26, 2008 - 5:13 pm

[…] as astute riders may have noticed by now, subway cars do not have cameras. While the MTA promised a pilot program a few months ago, New York City is a long way away from seeing and being seen by surveillance […]

Donna February 10, 2009 - 8:23 am

It’s about time as we all know they have installed the cameras as you go through the tolls booths, Las Vegas has had surveillances cameras for a lifetime do you really think the eye in the sky cares what you are doing after 2 weeks of watching the tape no one cares what you are doing. Now how great it will be to know that the women who were attacked can now be caught on tape. They should have had it years ago.
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Camera- and flip seat-equipped train debuts on E :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog February 22, 2010 - 7:37 pm

[…] The MTA first announced plans to install cameras in subway cars as early as March 2007, and in April 2008, Transit said that some R160 at a certain point in the future would play host to the pilot. Last […]

Joseph March 30, 2010 - 7:46 am

I have no problem with the camera’s, I JUST WANT THEM TO WORK?


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