During his press conference announcing that Boston Marathon bombers intended to target Times Square, Mayor Michael Bloomberg slamed “special interests” he accused of trying to block the city from installing crime-fighting surveillance cameras.
“The role that surveillance cameras played in identifying the suspects was absolutely essential to saving lives, both in Boston, and now we know here in New York City as well,” Mr. Bloomberg told reporters at City Hall.
“We’ve made major investments in camera technology–not withstanding the objections of some special interests,” he continued. “And the attacks in Boston, I think, demonstrate just how valuable those cameras can be.”
Mr. Bloomberg has repeatedly butted heads with civil liberties advocates, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, over the city’s aggressive policing and counter-terrorism efforts post-9/11.
The group filed an ongoing lawsuit against the city in 2008 for information about the scope of the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, the city’s network of thousands of cameras spanning the Financial District, which is a cornerstone of Mr. Bloomberg’s counter-terrorism investments. The program was expanded to Midtown in 2010.
But NYCLU Executive Director, Donna Lieberman, said after Mr. Bloomberg’s remarks that the group’s red flags were justified.
“Our thoughts remain with the victims of this great tragedy. And we understand and agree that there are times, locations and circumstances that clearly call for increased security and protections,” she said. “But solutions that seriously undermine our freedom and fail to address the security failures of the past may give us a false sense of security while unnecessarily sacrificing individual privacy.
“We must not play into the hands of those that seek to hurt us by abandoning our free society and allowing our liberties to be needlessly eroded,” she added.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said that, while Times Square is already under heavy surveillance, the NYPD is planning to further extend the surveillance network with cutting-edge technology.
“We want to expand our cameras–the number of cameras that we have. And we’d like to, also, in that universe, expand our smart camera capability,” he said. “We’ve talked about that, now adding algorithms–’video analytics’ it’s called. So that’s sort of an additional aspect–it doesn’t come with every camera, believe me. So just the number of cameras, throughout all five boroughs, and to increase the number of cameras capable of video analytics,” he said.
Mr. Bloomberg also re-affirmed his commitment.
“We’re working wherever there’s large groups of people, that would be the logical place to put your cameras. But one of the thing for sure, you’re never going to know where all of our cameras are,” he said. “And that’s one of the ways you deter people; they just don’t know whether the person sitting next to you is just somebody sitting there or a detective watching.”
He also thanked President Barack Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano “for recognizing that homeland security funding should be based on threat, and threat alone; not poke-barrel politics.”
Additional reporting by Colin Campbell.