NYPD, Microsoft unveil all-seeing downtown surveillance system

The New York City Police Department and Microsoft have unveiled technology that aggregates and analyzes existing public safety data in real time to provide investigators with a comprehensive view of potential threats and criminal activity.

Jointly designed by the NYPD and Microsoft, the Domain Awareness System retrieves and displays information from thousands of cameras, license plate readers, environmental sensors and law enforcement databases.

Using an intuitive graphical interface, the system provides real-time alerts and the means to quickly call up relevant information that will guide and inform police action. The technology has mapping features that support investigations, crime analysis and effective management of police resources, NYPD officials said.

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Investigators and police commanders will have immediate access to information through live video feeds, and can instantly see suspects’ arrest records, related 911 calls and related crimes occurring in the area. The system is being described as “developed by police officers for police officers.”

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly made the announcement Aug. 8 in Lower Manhattan at the NYPD’s Security Initiative headquarters.

The system capitalizes on new policing software that allows police officers and other personnel to more quickly access relevant information gathered from existing cameras, 911 calls, previous crime reports and other existing tools and technology, Bloomberg said.

Lower Manhattan Security Center

“And because the NYPD built the system in partnership with Microsoft, the sale of the product will generate revenue for the city that will fund more new crime-prevention and counter-terrorism programs,” Bloomberg said.

New York City will receive 30 percent of revenues on Microsoft’s future sales of the Domain Awareness System, which will be used to support innovative crime-prevention and counter-terrorism programs.

The city has approximately 3,000 closed-circuit TV cameras connected to the Domain Awareness System. The majority of them are in Lower Manhattan – south of Canal Street, from the East River to the Hudson River – and in Midtown Manhattan between 30th Street and 60th Street, from river to river. The NYPD has begun to expand camera coverage to the boroughs beyond Manhattan.

If, for example, a suspicious package is left at a location, the NYPD can immediately tap into video feeds and quickly scroll back in time to see who may have left it there. Or if radiation detectors in the field set off alarms and alert the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative command center, the new system will help quickly identify whether the radioactive material is naturally occurring, a weapon, or a harmless isotope used in medical treatments, police officials said.

The NYPD and Microsoft jointly developed the system by bringing together Microsoft’s technical expertise and technologies with the day-to-day experience and knowledge of police personnel.

Microsoft handled the coding and system architecture while the NYPD set out the system requirements, which were developed through an exhaustive series of focus groups in which members of the police thought critically and creatively about how they perform their jobs and how technology could make operations run more efficiently, police officials said.


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