Bloomberg Surveys "Ring Of Steel" Efforts Overseas
This month's failed car bombing in Times Square had Mayor Bloomberg in London Tuesday, looking at a controversial surveillance system that some say may deter future terrorism attempts. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.
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Mayor Michael Bloomberg's second security-related visit to London carried new urgency after the botched attack in Times Square.
Despite similar terrorism risks, New York has but a fraction of the the half million surveillance cameras, private and public, in but a small section of the British capital and underground transit system.
"And what I plan to do is to take back what I've seen and there is a lot of contact between the agency here and our agency in New York on a police level and on an operational level," said the mayor.
While the mayor toured London, top New York City Police Department officials held a discussion touching on weak counterterrorism links in New York.
Currently, there is a large police camera network downtown, but in Midtown there are, officials say, relatively few. In fact, the number is so limited, there was no good surveillance video to capture Faisal Shahzad, who is alleged to have driven the SUV packed with explosives.
Police want the downtown system replicated uptown, as well as license plate readers at crossings into Manhattan. It's a tool already available in London, where surveillance helped identify those behind the 2005 deadly attacks on the transit system.
"It's not a question of saying one is better than the other. They had a fairly complex and comprehensive system before we did. We're trying to build on lessons learned," said police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Critics note the cameras didn't prevent the attack, though some argue they may dissuade all but the most determined suicide bombers.
"It is controversial, but we have to make a balance between civil liberties and protection. We live in a very dangerous world," Bloomberg said.
"Of course, everybody understands the civil liberties arguments and the concerns, and they're very, very strong in this city and country, just as they are in New York," said London mayor Boris Johnson.
The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed two suits -- both pending -- seeking to know how long images are stored and who will have access to them.
An NYCLU representative would not appear on camera Tuesday, but in a statement, Communications Director Jennifer Carnig said, "National security is an area where we can't afford to squander resources and just assume that what ought to work will. The public has the right to participate in an informed discussion about surveillance of millions of law-abiding people on our streets."