Fatal Stabbing Shows Gaps in NYC Subway Surveillance
A fatal stabbing in a New York City subway tunnel in late March again highlighted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) struggle to deploy video surveillance as a post-9/11 anti-terror initiative.
A suspect who stabbed two men during the early morning hours of March 28 fled via train at the Christopher Street station, according to New York police. The station hasn’t been equipped with any of the 4,313 surveillance cameras now installed in city subways.
Without any video footage of the attack, the New York Police Department (NYPD) returned to the lower-tech practice of circulating fliers without a description of the suspect.
A spokesman with the rapid transit agency assured SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION that the project is still on track, despite the dismissal of the contractor, ongoing legal battle and an array of technical setbacks.
The cameras have become increasingly important as the authority seeks to prevent terrorist attacks as it reduces the number of station agents amid budgetary cutbacks.
MTA is still planning to activate 2,043 cameras installed by Lockheed Martin Corp. Of those, 910 will be operational in June, according to Aaron Donovan, deputy press secretary with MTA.
The MTA may seek help from a security firm to activate the remaining cameras, several New York integrators said. Large defense contractors such as Lockheed can win enterprise jobs such as the New York subway project by leveraging their existing government relationships and purchasing equipment directly from manufacturers and selling it to the agency for at lease 10% less than an integrator could. Consultants then usually oversee electrical and other subcontractors. An experience integrator brings resources and knowledge a defense contractor may not have, said Jim Henry, chief executive of Henry Brothers Electronics.
“You still need that integrator expertise, even if you have a consultant,” Henry said. “You need somebody who knows how to navigate the kinks of delivering a functional system.”
Additionally, the agency has been consulting with the NYPD to help determine where additional cameras should be added.
“In a post-9/11 world we have worked together to harden our infrastructure, secure sensitive areas and prioritize locations for surveillance cameras,” Donovan told SSI. “We expect to have additional funding in the upcoming MTA Capital Program to add cameras in priority areas identified in consultation with the NYPD.”
Despite the transit agency’s efforts, the surveillance project has been, as the New York Times has written, “a patchwork of lifeless cameras, unequipped stations and problem-plagued wiring.”
Frustration concerning delays and spiraling costs came to a head in April 2009, when MTA fired contractor Lockheed Martin.
The company promptly sued MTA, which filed its own countersuit. While Lockheed claims MTA refused to give it access to critical subway tunnels to install surveillance equipment, MTA says Lockheed failed to provide a system that actually worked.
MTA’s lawsuit alleges the firm’s system failed repeatedly during tests, Lockheed falsely reported progressing work, an MTA inspector was injured by faulty scaffolding and Lockheed subcontractors botched installation of aerial wires across a bridge, the New York Post has reported.
An audit released earlier this year by New York State Comptroller Thomas Napoli said the project, which began in summer 2005, has so far cost $461 million, which is well above its initial $265 million price tag. The project may be 19 months to 50 months behind and will now cost $743 million, the audit found.
MTA and Lockheed both declined to release details about the cameras, intelligent video software or other equipment being used.
“As active litigation, it’s our company policy not to make comment on the details,” Joe Wagovich, a Lockheed spokesman, told SSI. “We’re confident as we continue to work through this process that it will become clearly evident that Lockheed Martin worked diligently to keep its contractual commitments.”
The most common type of subway camera monitors the turnstile area in stations.
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