New surveillance system developed to improve city security

September 6, 2012

The NYPD has developed the Domain Awareness System, a new high-tech surveillance camera system, to get a step ahead of potential terrorists and criminals.

The police department is installing thousands of closed-circuit television cameras that will be dispersed throughout the five boroughs to closely monitor the safety of the city.

The DAS collects environmental data to detect potential terrorist threats, integrates license plate readers and determines the type of radiation emitted by cars using software developed by Microsoft -in an effort to preserve public peace and protect the rights of individuals and property, according to a written statement from the New York City Government.

“This new system capitalizes on new powerful policing software that allows police officers and other personnel to more quickly access relevant information gathered from existing cameras, 911 calls, previous crime reports and other existing tools and technology,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote in a press release. “It will help the NYPD do more to prevent crimes from occurring and help them respond to crimes even more effectively.”

The city can also benefit from the DAS financially, as it will earn 30 percent of the profits generated by licensing the system out to other cities.

The government has ensured that no individual will be targeted or monitored solely due to their perceived demographics. The 24/7 system will only be used to monitor public areas and public activities, but differing views have arisen on the potential violation of privacy.

Despite the system’s numerous components, James Jacob, NYU professor of Law and director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice, is not entirely convinced this system will deter all terror activity.

“It’s a tremendous challenge to detect and neutralize every threat,” Jacob said. “This initiative should be a solid contribution, but there can be no guaranteed security.”

Gallatin senior Whitney Asante said he supports the initiative’s intent to protect the public, but it could cause an obstruction of privacy.

“It’s made by Microsoft, which means it could be hacked,” Asante said. “I can see some Machiavellian applications that could easily result in some unpleasant invasions of privacy.”

Michelle Nicotera, a CAS alumnus and first-year law student at St. John’s University, advocates this initiative and does not believe the DAS is a violation of privacy because of the system’s purpose.

“The right to privacy does not encompass the right to create, store, transport or otherwise be involved with hazardous material or weapons,” Nicotera said. “And these techniques are designed to find and bring to justice those individuals who have already violated the law by choosing to associate with criminals and [or] terrorists.”

A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 6 print edition. Kayana Jean-Philippe is a deputy city/state editor. Email her at kjeanphilippe@nyunews.com. 

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