For the first time, the city police department now has instant access to almost 500 video cameras installed in New York's busiest subway stations. Cameras located above turnstiles, platforms and entrances at Times Square, Penn Station and Grand Central are now feeding into a police database being monitored 24 hours a day at a location near Wall Street.
Civil liberties groups are concerned about the growing web of surveillance, but Mayor Bloomberg says the cameras bolster freedom.
"Every American is protected by exactly this kind of technology, which helps us stop terrorists who would take away our freedoms," says Bloomberg.
The city hopes the video network will prevent terrorist attacks and street crime. It now includes about 1,200 video cameras -- from both the public- and private sectors -- in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. Mayor Bloomberg says the network will eventually grow to include 3,000 cameras.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says the video data is only archived for 30 days. Using sophisticated technology, the police can now scan recorded footage for particular objects and colors.
"If we're looking a person in a red jacket, we can call up all the red jackets filmed in the last 30 days," says Kelly.
Kelly says the police can also program the system to alert them if a bag is left unattended or when a person walks into a restricted area.
Mayor Bloomberg says they expect to incorporate the rest of the subway system by the end of 2011. Only cameras from key stations will be included.
About five million people ride the subways everyday. Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Jay Walder says fewer than six crimes are reported on the subway system per day.