Cameras in the New York City Subways
New York City is spending $212 million on surveillance technology: 1,000 video cameras and 3,000 motion sensors for the city’s subways, bridges, and tunnels.
Why? Why, given that cameras didn’t stop the London train bombings? Why, when there is no evidence that cameras are effectice at reducing either terrorism and crime, and every reason to believe that they are ineffective?
One reason is that it’s the “movie plot threat” of the moment. (You can hear the echos of the movie plots when you read the various quotes in the news stories.) The terrorists bombed a subway in London, so we need to defend our subways. The other reason is that New York City officials are erring on the side of caution. If nothing happens, then it was only money. But if something does happen, they won’t keep their jobs unless they can show they did everything possible. And technological solutions just make everyone feel better.
If I had $212 million to spend to defend against terrorism in the U.S., I would not spend it on cameras in the New York City subways. If I had $212 million to defend New York City against terrorism, I would not spend it on cameras in the subways. This is nothing more than security theater against a movie plot threat.
On the plus side, the money will also go for a new radio communications system for subway police, and will enable cell phone service in underground stations, but not tunnels.
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