By Tom Leonard
America’s deep-seated sensitivity about the privacy rights of its citizens is being challenged in New York where police want to set up a London-style “ring of steel” to protect the city against terrorism.
Officials say that 116 licence-plate reading cameras will have been installed in Lower Manhattan by the end of the year, the initial phase of a $90 million (£45 million) surveillance programme that will be the first in the United States.
The Lower Manhattan Security Initiative will resemble the security surrounding the City of London, with cameras and pivoting gates at key intersections that could isolate suspicious vehicles. The usefulness of CCTV cameras in helping police track the movements of the July 7 London bombers and the terrorism suspects last month impressed many US police chiefs who previously had reservations about introducing them.
Raymond Kelly, the police commissioner of New York City, said Lower Manhattan, which includes the Wall Street financial district, was “very critical to the lifeblood of this nation … we want to make it less vulnerable”.
Under the plan, 3,000 surveillance cameras would be installed below Canal Street by the end of next year, some of them owned by local businesses. Critics believe the NYPD will struggle to finance the plan.
Police are still considering whether to use face-recognition technology.