Colby Hamilton, Writer, WNYC News
Colby Hamilton is a general assignment reporter. He originally joined WNYC as a political blogger. He's a proud graduate of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly unveiled a new integrated crime counter-terrorism and crime fighting tool on Wednesday that will allow police to aggregate and track crime data in real time throughout the city.
The new $30 million-plus software program called the Domain Awareness System brings together information from 911 dispatchers, surveillance cameras and other public safety gathering points.
"This new system capitalizes on new, powerful policing software that allows police officers and other personnel to more quickly access relevant information gathered from existing technology and help them respond even more effectively,” Bloomberg said.
Police can now respond to a situation, like a suspicious package report, by accessing a nearby surveillance camera to review video before the call came in. It would allow authorities to survey conditions and report them to nearby police units before they arrive on the scene.
The technology also allows police to track vehicles of interest based on their license plates, following their movements in real-time while also being able to pull up the history of their movements.
Law enforcement can also pull up maps based on types of complaints—such as reported shootings—so investigators while be better able to respond to crime patterns on the ground.
The city’s investment in building the program will also mean 30 percent of future sales of the system to other governments by Microsoft will come back to New York.
Not everyone is thrilled about the greater level of security surveillance. The New York Civil Liberties Union released a statement from Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn on the threats such technology presents to law-abiding New Yorkers.
“We fully support the police using technology to combat crime and terrorism, but law-abiding New Yorkers should not end up in a police database every time they walk their dog, go to the doctor or drive around Manhattan,” Dunn said in the statement. “The NYPD’s massive surveillance systems should have strict privacy protections and independent oversight.”
Bloomberg said the city is well aware of the need for protecting civil liberties and is already taking measures, such as only keeping surveillance video for 30 days.
"We are very cognizant of [the concerns],” said Bloomberg. “We are very concerned about staying within the law, staying within the court decisions."