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Congressional candidate calls for cameras at train stations

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on July 18.)

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Westport First Selectwoman Diane Farrell, a candidate for Congress, has proposed installing cameras at Connecticut train stations in the wake of the terrorist bombings in London.

London police quickly got leads on bombing suspects because of a high-tech video security network in the subway system, Farrell said.

Such surveillance equipment could help prevent terrorist attacks on Metro-North Railroad or help police track suspects if something happened at a station, said Farrell, a Democrat who plans to run against Republican U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays in 2006 for the 4th Congressional District seat.

"There ought to be improved surveillance equipment along the entire Metro-North line," Farrell said. "There should be cameras on platforms and cameras in the parking lots. We should at least try to improve the surveillance technologies that we have in place."

Farrell, chairwoman of the South Western Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, a state agency made up of the eight municipal leaders in lower Fairfield County, said she plans to raise the idea at the group's next meeting at the end of the month.

The Westport train station has no video surveillance equipment, Farrell said. The town investigated the cost before Sept. 11, 2001, but it was too expensive, she said.

She said she hopes the cost has decreased and the state Department of Transportation or Metro-North Railroad would help pay for the project, which would need employees to monitor the cameras. Farrell said she hopes the Westport station can be a test case for lower Fairfield County.

Shays, a member of the Congressional Homeland Security Committee, said additional security is needed at rail stations and public transportation hubs, but other steps must be taken to secure the nation's mass transit systems.

"We need to take a broader view of protecting our public transportation system, developing a national strategy and focusing our resources in high-risk areas," he said in a statement. "The most important part of homeland security, however, is detecting and preventing terrorists before they ever have the chance to get on a train or a bus with a bomb. That's why it is critical we reauthorize the Patriot Act to give our law enforcement the tools necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, not just react to them."

Stations on the New Haven Line are owned by the state or the municipality, so the level of video surveillance varies.

The Stamford train station, the busiest on the New Haven Line, is operated by the state. It has surveillance cameras on the concourse, platforms and tunnel, Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said.

A 1999 ordinance prevents the city from placing security cameras on municipal property unless the footage is used to monitor traffic, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said. Since Sept. 11 and the London bombings, it may be time to review the ordinance, Malloy said.

"I think it's a good idea," he said. "Surveillance is becoming a good tool for monitoring things other than traffic."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

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