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New York City Tests Surveillance Cameras On Buses

Under a $5.2 million pilot program, six New York City buses have been equipped with interior cameras that capture views of drivers, passengers, and external traffic.

Smile, you're on the Bx15. New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority on Wednesday disclosed that it's testing the use of video surveillance cameras on its buses in an effort to beef up security.

Under a $5.2 million pilot program launched in September, six New York City buses have been equipped with several interior cameras that capture views of drivers, passengers, and external traffic. The cameras feed images to an on-board hard drive, and that data is uploaded to a central server at MTA headquarters when the buses stop for refueling. The upload occurs across a wireless connection.

MTA officials hope the cameras will help deter crime against passengers and drivers while capturing images that could be useful in contesting lawsuits against the agency. The MTA says the program was also inspired by London's extensive network of transit surveillance cameras, which helped identify the July 7 subway bombers.

To help protect rider privacy, the hard drives will be wiped clean after 90 days "unless there's an incident that bears investigating," says an MTA spokesman.

The MTA plans to expand the program to 450 buses, about 10% of New York's bus fleet, by July. Whether all city buses will eventually be camera equipped is largely a question of funding, the spokesman says. The pilot project is funded in part with federal Homeland Security dollars.

The MTA tapped Integrion to install and integrate the cameras and supporting hardware and software under a contract that requires a turnkey system. The vendor previously supplied a similar system to New Jersey Transit.

On Tuesday, IBM unveiled plans to introduce video surveillance hardware and software for corporate and government use. The technology, dubbed S3, will be available early next year.

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