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NY subways get cameras, sensors to boost security

(Reuters circulated the following article on August 23.)

NEW YORK -- New York's transit agency said on Tuesday it will spend $212 million to improve security on subways and buses amid criticism, fueled by July's bombings in London, it had not spent available cash to protect America's largest public transport system.

Under a three-year contract, defense contractor Lockheed Martin will install 1,000 surveillance cameras, 3,000 sensors and other equipment to detect potential attacks against New York's subway stations, bridges and tunnels, Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Executive Director Katherine Lapp said.

"We hope (this) will detect the terrorists before an incident happens, not just be able to report for forensic purposes after an incident happens and identify who the terrorist is," Lapp said.

Using an array of sensors, closed-circuit television and software, the new technology will spot unattended packages that may contain bombs and alert transit employees to unauthorized intruders in its tunnels and other sensitive areas. But it will not be able to detect explosives placed inside garbage cans or on train cars, Lapp and a Lockheed official said.

The new system will not detect biological agents or explosives either, Lapp said, but the MTA is testing sensors for those potential threats and plans to add them later.

The contract is the first major piece of a $591 million security plan approved in 2002.

New York's transit agency came under fire in recent weeks after it admitted it had spent very little of its security budget after spending several years mulling the various technologies available.

Subway workers have complained recently of a lack of adequate training for what to do in emergencies.

A team of companies led by Lockheed began installing cameras on Tuesday throughout subway stations. The move comes a month after bombers attacked the London transit system on July 7, killing 52 people.

Bombs placed on commuter trains and elsewhere killed 191 in Madrid on March 11, 2004.

Following a second attack in London in July, New York police began random bag searches of subway and bus passengers. Civil liberties groups have sought a court injunction against the searches saying they violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits searches without probable cause.

"This seems like a better idea than paying police overtime to search bags on the subway," Neysa Pranger of the Straphangers Campaign, a group representing commuters, said of the new security measures being put in place.

The MTA also said on Tuesday it will ask companies to bid to provide cell phone coverage for its subway stations.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

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