FILE PHOTO – An empty subway car is seen during the morning rush, following the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New York City, U.S., March 19, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
NEW YORK, Sept 20 (Reuters) – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is installing security cameras in all of New York City's subway cars, officials announced on Tuesday.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said the cameras would make riders more confident in the safety of the transit system.
The plan is to install two cameras in each of 6,355 subway cars, building on a pilot program that saw cameras installed in 100 cars. The work should be completed by 2025, the MTA said.
The MTA is spending $3.5 million on the installation, and the remaining $2 million needed is through a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Urban Area Security Initiative.
There are already security cameras in the subway system's more than 470 stations, though they do not always work.
Tuesday's announcement came five months after a man started shooting a rifle at passengers on a subway train in Brooklyn, striking 10 people in a highly unusual attack. All survived their injuries, but the police search for the shooter was hampered by problems with the security cameras in the station.
An MTA spokesperson declined to say who made the cameras used in the pilot program or whether the vendor would continue to be used in the expansion.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said the MTA was being unduly secretive about surveillance and had given no information about how the camera data would be analyzed and stored and no evidence that expanding the use of cameras improves safety.
"Living in a sweeping surveillance state shouldn't be the price we pay to be safe," Daniel Schwarz, an NYCLU technology and privacy strategist, said in a statement.
Ridership on the subway plummeted after the COVID-19 pandemic spread to the United States in 2020, but has been gradually rebuilding to about 3.7 million rides on a typical weekday. There have been more than 390 robberies on the subway so far this year, according to police data, compared to more than 320 in the same period in 2019.
Danny Pearlstein, a spokesperson for the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, said there were more pressing areas of investment.
"Ultimately, the governor should also make a targeted investment in more frequent public transit service to cut platform wait times and attract more people to the system, creating safety in numbers," he wrote in an email.
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