In light of the recent bombing attempt in Times Square, the NYPD’s plan to install a high tech surveillance network in Midtown Manhattan seems to have regained steam. NY officials installed high tech and expensive surveillance cameras after 9/11 in lower Manhattan with future plans to expand uptown. Since then, there has been much debate on the issue and budgetary constraints. After Saturday’s bomb scare in Times Square, the ideas to expand surveillance coverage between 34th to 59th streets from east side to west has regained attention.
What makes the cameras so high tech is the fact that they can detect materials by their chemical, biological, and radiological sensors. Unlike regular cameras that simply record what’s going on, these cameras send alerts if certain compounds are detected. If these cameras would have been in place in Times Square, there is a possibility that the cameras would have detected the explosives before the attentive street vendors did. The materials found in the car bomb that did not detonate include fertilizer, propane tanks, firecrackers and gasoline, all of which are detectable by these types of cameras.
These cameras are also attuned to cars that circle the same block many times, which can be an indicator of either suspicious activity or a lost tourist. License plate reading is also a technology that the cameras can do and help police identify suspicious vehicles.
The plan began in fall 2009 when the NYPD received a $24 million security grant, but there is still work left to be done. Reflecting on the attempted car bombing, there is no time to waste because not every situation is going to end as nicely. “There really isn’t a downside to it,” commented Louis Anemone, who was formerly involved with both the New York Police Department and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Next time [the car bomb] may not get this far because of the technology.”