New plan to put cameras in every subway car won’t help, students say

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to install two cameras in each subway car by 2025 after a shooting on a Brooklyn train in April.


Jason Alpert-Wisnia

Surveillance cameras are currently in use at the 14th Street-Union Square subway station. The Metropolitan Transit Authority now plans to place them inside train cars. (Jason Alpert-Wisnia for WSN)

Sara Sharma, Contributing Writer

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recent announcement that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will soon install two cameras in each New York City Subway car prompted skepticism from New York City residents and NYU students — many of whom use the subway system daily to attend class and work.

Several recent safety-related incidents have left many subway users wary of using the system. Last April, a man shot 10 people and injured at least a dozen others in a subway car in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The perpetrator, 62-year-old Frank James, pleaded not guilty to committing a terrorist attack the next month. Security cameras were not functioning at the station where the shooting occurred and James remained at large for over 24 hours after the attack.

Hochul also announced on Sept. 20 that the Urban Area Security Initiative federal grant program, which provides funding to prevent and protect against acts of terrorism, gave the MTA $2 million to fund the installation of 5,400 cameras in 2,700 subway cars for the new program. The grant will also contribute to the installation of 3,800 new cameras in 130 subway stations, supplementing a previous pilot program that promised cameras for 100 subway cars.

CAS junior Cella Raiteri, who lives away from campus and takes the subway regularly, believes that more needs to be done to address recent subway attacks, but said she felt that more monitoring is a step in the wrong direction.

“I have mixed feelings about it,” Raiteri said. “I definitely think that there needs to be a response to the increased subway attacks that are happening, but I am averse to just mass camera surveillance.”

The plan has come under criticism for introducing excessive surveillance to the system and invading riders’ privacy. The MTA told NBC News that the footage taken from the security cameras will be available to law enforcement on local, state and federal levels, and that a camera provider had not yet been chosen for the program. The cameras will survey entire cars, but will not be able to be monitored live, according to Hochul.

Although some NYU students were concerned about their personal privacy, personal safety matters more for others. Smit Sheth, a Tandon graduate student, said that the idea of installing cameras makes him feel more safe, especially as an international student who commutes between several New York City boroughs on a daily basis.

“Cameras make me feel safer, even if psychologically, because it’s one step closer to accountability,” Sheth said. “Even if my information was given out under mass surveillance, my security matters more. ”

Stern sophomore Ernie Padilla said that he believes the MTA should model subway safety measures on Japan’s system. He said he believes that policies in Japan — such as rail guards and cars designated only for women — can help to increase public safety. He also said he does not believe that the new cameras will be effective in preventing crime.

“Although it is possible to find people from cameras, New York has millions of people who live here, and millions more who come in every day for work,” Padilla said. “It’s really not doing anything other than observing and seeing what’s happening.”

Contact Sara Sharma at [email protected].