NYC subways face push for better camera system after malfunction missed shooter

People walk by a subway stop in a busy midtown Manhattan in New York City. The MTA is reviewing Internet connectivity issues at three Brooklyn subway stations that resulted in video feed not being received by the transit agency’s command center and the NYPD, according to an MTA spokesman. — AFP

New York’s subway network is facing a push to improve its camera system after security video failed to work at the Brooklyn station that became a bloody scene of chaos in the wake of a mass shooting on April 12.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees New York City’s subways, buses and commuter rails, is reviewing Internet connectivity issues at three Brooklyn subway stations that resulted in video feed not being received by the transit agency’s command center and the New York City Police Department, according to Tim Minton, an MTA spokesman.

Police officers on April 13 arrested Frank R. James in the attack, where he allegedly set off two smoke grenades before opening fire aboard a Manhattan-bound N train during the morning commute, leaving 23 people injured, including 10 with gunshot wounds. He’s charged with conducting a terrorist attack on mass transit and could face a life sentence if convicted.

Mayor Eric Adams said he wants the MTA to review its surveillance system to resolve the video malfunction at the subway stations. The incident has sparked a call for more video surveillance throughout MTA’s subway network, including cameras with higher definition that can be monitored remotely.

“We’d like to see more and better cameras,” said Andrew Albert, an MTA board member and transit advocate. “We should get the best cameras we can get. We have to do whatever we need to do to keep riders and employees safe. If there has to be a change to the capital programme, so be it.”

Improving safety on MTA’s subways is crucial to making customers feel comfortable and to help bring more of them back to the system, which has been carrying about 3.3 million weekday riders, down from an average 5.5 million in 2019. This week’s attack follows several high-profile crimes on the subway – including a woman in January being pushed to her death before an oncoming train – as more people are using its stations and trains for shelter.

‘No choice’

Adams, a former NYPD cop, directed more officers to patrol subway platforms and trains after taking office in January. He’s now calling for even more police presence on the transit system.

“There’s no choice but to make the subway system safe because it is the centerpiece of New York’s identity,” Janno Lieber, MTA’s chief executive officer, said Wednesday on 1010 WINS radio. “It’s the centerpiece of our economy. It’s the only way people can move around to get to jobs, and education and culture and everything the city has to offer.”

The MTA, a state agency, in September finished installing cameras at all of its 472 subway stations as a way to deter crime as assaults spiked during the pandemic. There are about 10,000 cameras now throughout the system.

“If you know your face is out there, the minute you step in, chances are you’ll think twice if you’re a perp,” Albert said.

Even with more cameras, about 1% of the video network is going to be down, on average, for scheduled maintenance and other reasons at any given time, the MTA’s Minton said.

While video footage at other subway stations helped the NYPD with its investigation, it lacked such visual evidence from the very station where riders first got off the train after the attack because of the Internet problem.

“The cameras are really great, but the feed has to work,” Albert said. – Bloomberg

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