NYC surveillance initiative is triple threat to terrorism

Project to install 3,000 cameras, license-plate readers and hazardous materials detectors

With terrorist threats an ever-present concern in the minds of Americans, and especially New Yorkers, the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative – originally instituted in 2005 by the New York Police Department – has commenced work on its plan to install license-plate readers; biological, chemical, nuclear and radiation detectors; and some 3,000 cameras in New York City.

One of the areas to be covered includes the 1.7 square miles south of Canal Street that was targeted on Sept. 11, 2001 in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, according to an article in the Concord Monitor.

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"This is a critical component of the nation, indeed of the world's financial system," said Brian Michael Jenkins, a terrorism specialist at the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica, Calif.-based policy group, in the article. "A major disruption caused by a terrorist attack inside this perimeter could have cascading economic consequences across the planet.”

More than 1,300 cameras, up from just 300 present in February 2009, have already been installed in public areas to watch for any potential terror threats, according to Paul Browne, a spokesman for the NYPD.

The Homeland Security Department will fund 90 percent of the initiative, which has grown in estimated costs from $81.5 million in 2006 to $201 million today. The rest of the funding, some $42 million, will be requested as the project, which is expected to be complete in 2013, progresses.

The initiative is not without resistance, including budget cuts in federal terrorism grants and challenges from the New York Civil Liberties Union arguing the project infringes upon people’s right to privacy and that it will not thwart any attacks.

Nonetheless, the plan is moving forward with the cameras currently divided between the original area and Midtown, according to Brown. Additionally, Times Square, Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal received 586 subway cameras in October.

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