MTA’s Broad Surveillance Camera Expansion Did Little To Reduce Crime


Final 12 months the MTA considerably elevated the variety of surveillance cameras within the subway system, putting in 784 new cameras, thrice as many as in 2019. This got here amid an uptick in crime even with file low ridership, bringing the overall variety of cameras to greater than 8,000. 

Regardless of elevated surveillance, nevertheless, the drop in subway crime in 2020 was not commensurate with the drop in ridership. Main felonies, general, had been solely down about 30 % in 2020 in comparison with 2019. And a few main crimes truly elevated. Burglaries, for instance, went from 7 in 2019 to 23 final 12 months.

Ridership decreased by greater than 80 % from March to June, however felony crimes solely dropped by just a few share factors and robberies elevated throughout that point, in comparison with the earlier 12 months.  The variety of rapes and murders, whereas nonetheless unusual within the subway system, greater than doubled, with six murders in 2020 in comparison with three in 2019, and there have been seven rapes reported in 2020, in comparison with three in 2019. This features a brazen daytime rape, by which the suspect was filmed by a commuter and later arrested. 

Crime specialists say safety cameras can function a deterrent (some criminals are unlikely to commit crimes in the event that they imagine they’re being watched), however largely the cameras are a software to determine suspects. 

“Authorities digicam methods that file lawful exercise all the time pose a danger of abuse, notably when they’re large methods just like the MTA one,” Christopher Dunn, authorized director on the New York Civil Liberties Union wrote in a press release. “Any such system should restrict entry to the system and delete recordings promptly. Legislation-enforcement businesses ought to by no means have entry to video recordings except investigating a particular crime. And there must be clear bans in opposition to the usage of biometric surveillance akin to face recognition.”

New York Metropolis Transit Interim President Sarah Feinberg acknowledged at a board assembly this month that the MTA doesn’t normally communicate overtly about its surveillance digicam program. However she needed to spotlight the variety of new cameras put in final 12 months and their objective.

“These are usually not cameras which are essentially feeding info real-time, these are cameras that we are able to then return to if an incident happens within the system, if the incident happens within the path of that digicam we are able to return, check out that digicam and share within the info with the NYPD and with MTA police,” Feinberg mentioned.  “The truth that we’ve been capable of ramp up our use of this expertise during the last 12 months has led to a major variety of events once we’ve been capable of share info, footage and pictures with the police which has led to an arrest of somebody who’s dedicated a major crime within the system.”

In some instances the cameras made a distinction, just like the subway shoving within the Lexington Avenue/59th Avenue station, by which police situated a suspect shortly. Police say surveillance footage additionally helped determine a suspect in a Bronx stabbing final March. Nonetheless, regardless of the prevalence of cameras, it took 9 months till a suspect was arrested within the deadly arson case that killed a motorman final March.

The MTA mentioned about half the cameras, or 4,500, are monitored in actual time, which continues to be a excessive quantity. The feeds, in response to a NY1 report, are monitored by each the police and MTA safety officers. In 2019, the NYCLU raised considerations in regards to the NYPD utilizing some safety digicam reside feeds to scan stations for homeless folks.

Specialists agree the footage is extra helpful for figuring out suspects after a criminal offense has been dedicated.

“Cameras, sadly are usually not that a lot of a deterrent, notably to not individuals who could also be mentally incapacitated,” Dorothy Moses Schulz, professor emeritus at John Jay School and a retired captain of the Metro-North Commuter Railroad Police, advised Gothamist/WNYC. “So the cameras are good for catching folks later, not so good at catching folks within the act except they’re being monitored.” 

Among the most grotesque crimes within the system lately, such because the deadly subway slashings in February allegedly by a mentally unwell homeless man, nonetheless despatched a whole bunch of officers on a manhunt for a few days. The NYPD deployed what the police commissioner referred to as “a small military of detectives and investigators working this all evening, all through New York Metropolis” earlier than finding the suspect.

After the arrest, NYPD Deputy Chief Brian McGee advised reporters that police recognized the suspect by his garments. He was carrying the identical garments they noticed him carrying on surveillance video.

After the subway stabbing spree in February, the MTA requested the NYPD so as to add 1,000 officers to the system. The division agreed to 500. And Feinberg, who received the MTA to comply with spend over $260 million to rent 500 extra MTA police in 2019 — earlier than the plan was placed on maintain through the pandemic — nonetheless maintains extra officers are wanted to patrol the subways.

“We’d like a stronger unformed presence within the system,” Feinberg mentioned Tuesday, talking to the Residents Price range Fee. “I wish to see a uniformed presence in each station, frankly on each platform. We’re at a crucial second the place folks have to return again into the system and so they must really feel like they’re protected.”

“There’s little question that the usage of video expertise in our subways has performed a key position in investigating felony instances,” NYPD Chief of Transit Kathleen O’Reilly wrote in a press release. “There are numerous examples of how video footage has helped determine suspects – together with from witness and bystander cellular phone cameras. We’re assured that persevering with so as to add extra cameras all through the system will help this effort, and we sit up for in the future seeing cameras in each subway station.”