We know we are being watched.  We accept we are being recorded.  We’ve even learned to recognize the multiplicity of cameras that bludgeon our every move now and forevermore.  There are cameras in the lampposts.  There are recording devices in the coffee cups.  The eyes of a peacock’s tail — as it struts along fallow land in the wilds of the Bronx and the niches of Central Park — have become a thousand, Panopticonic, eyes perceiving our every move.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) operates the subway system in New York City — and the amount of “watching you” is officially still on the rise — as the New York City Police Department searches for clues against us:

The NYPD asked transit police to pull footage from surveillance cameras some 2000 times last year — ten times more often than five years ago, the Daily News reports.

There are now 3100 cameras installed in city subway stations recording activities, officials said.

Are those 3100 cameras being watched every single day? Or are they only passive bystanders watching, without the ability to act or inform, as citizens are killed and robbed and beaten up every day beneath their dry, unforgiving, eyes?

We need a better way to make those 3100 cameras proactive so they actually help stop crime before it can start — instead of just providing cold results after the fact in an NYPD request to “pull footage” from those dead-eye Panopticons.

We can’t afford to hire 3100 human eyes to watch the footage from 3100 cameras in real time — but perhaps there is some way the signal from the cameras can be processed to alert a human “that something out of the average range is happening” for deeper, immediate, inspection.

Once the system has notified the officer on duty — who will then make a value judgment on the viability of the threat — getting other officers to quickly respond on foot is another logistical nightmare that makes one wonder if 3100 eyes really help police the community, or if they only helplessly confuses us by creating a false sense of safety and satiety?

4 Comments

  1. I can’t help but wonder if it would make more sense to send an alert or maybe an image to a person screening a few dozen ‘eyes’ at once — every time a person does anything that seems out of the ordinary — if such a thing were possible.

    1. That’s some good insight, Gordon. If you are an evildoer and you know these cameras are only recording, and not actively being watched to catch you in the act — then you’d only have to mask your identity — and you’d get away with the crime!

  2. UPDATE:

    500 more eyes on the way!

    New York City police will extend surveillance into major subway stations at Times Square, Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal with 500 video cameras, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

    The cameras, installed by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subways, will become part of a surveillance system covering lower and midtown Manhattan at a maximum cost of $200 million from federal Homeland Security and city funds, Bloomberg said. The city already scans 1,159 public and private cameras, and plans to integrate about 3,000 image- capturing devices.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-20/new-york-city-will-get-500-more-subway-cameras-under-surveillance-system.html