Audio Surveillance on NJ Transit Continues Debate Over Privacy and Security

The audio recordings capture conversations on light rail trains on the NJ Transit which, in addition to video surveillance, help fight crime.

Commuters on the New Jersey Transit have come to accept constant video surveillance in today’s highly-secure world. But what about audio surveillance?

Conversations onboard the light rail trains on the NJ Transit are recorded at times, reports, which officials say is used to fight crime. But some critics say conversations on the transit should be off limits.

“The audio recording, people have a real problem with,” said Len Resto, New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers president, suggesting that audio recordings should only be used when voices are raised to a certain volume. “A lot of conversations should be private.”

NJ Transit Spokesman Jim Smith said the most recent commuter survey found commuters expressed interest in greater security on light rail trains. Largely speaking, the survey reported high rankings for security on the NJ Transit.

“Passengers have repeatedly told the agency that security is a priority in the quarterly scorecard surveys of riders,” Smith said. “The onboard surveillance systems are also a deterrent for crime and unruly behavior.”

The audio recording, people have a real problem with. A lot of conversations should be private.

The surveillance equipment cost $750,000 to install, according to the report. The NJ Transit ramped up security on light trail trains last year, particularly after criminals targeted riders who were using cell phones and other electronic devices.

Smith said the video and audio captured is “an indispensable investigatory tool” for the New Jersey Transit Police Department. Meanwhile, Ed Barocas, legal director of the New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union, says passengers don’t expect privacy when yelling across a train car, but do when talking to the person next to them.

Which side of the debate are you on?

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