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NYPD considers 'ring of steel' surveillance system for lower Manhattan
[January 26, 2006]

NYPD considers 'ring of steel' surveillance system for lower Manhattan

(New York Daily News (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jan. 26--Looking to London, the NYPD is considering implementing a video surveillance "ring of steel" around lower Manhattan that could track hundreds of thousands of people and cars a day.

New York law enforcement officials say they have been examining the scores of closed-circuit TV cameras that take photos of people and virtually every car that enters London's financial district.

A similar system on our side of the pond could see a string of cameras along Chambers St. and at bridges, tunnels and subway and PATH stations, officials say.

New York cops already have about 1,000 cameras in the subway, and 2,100 more should be in place by 2008.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly strongly backs the increased surveillance, along with the 3,100 cameras that are up and running in city housing projects.

Security cameras at office buildings and apartment towers also train thousands of lenses at unsuspecting New Yorkers and often provide invaluable aid to cops.

But the NYPD has no comprehensive system to monitor the Financial District -- considered the nation's No. 1 terror target.

New York cops became more aware of the value of London's "ring of steel" during the terror attacks of last July 7, when the cameras quickly provided images of suspected bombers.

Above ground, London has cameras posted at 16 entry points and 12 exits from the so-called City of London -- an enclave that basically encompasses the financial district along with landmarks like St. Paul's Cathedral.

Streets also were narrowed slightly at the chokepoints to allow cameras mounted on unobtrusive posts to capture real-time images of license plates and drivers' faces.

The plates are compared with a database of stolen cars, those linked to crimes or terrorism suspects. The system "read" 37 million cars and got 91,000 hits, leading to 550 arrests last year alone.

A team of five NYPD experts visited London in September to get an inside look at how the system works.

There are obvious similarities between the two financial districts -- both are about a square mile in area and lure about 300,000 daily commuters to a maze of narrow streets. The vast majority of people arrive and leave on subway trains.

There are differences, too.

New York is unlikely to narrow its already traffic-challenged streets to re-create the London-style chokepoints. And unlike the City of London, New York has no separate police force for the Financial District.

If any plan is put in place for Wall Street, officials here would also likely hope to protect midtown Manhattan, considered a top terror target.

By Alison Gendar and Dave Goldiner

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