About half the 4,313 security cameras installed along New York City's subways aren't seeing a thing - a blind spot in the crime and terrorism safety net for the nation's largest city.
"A lot of those cameras don't work, and maybe someday we're going to get very badly hurt because of it," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Tuesday.
While cameras are out of commission in the subway, the cash-strapped Metropolitan Transportation Authority has also been forced to cut officers who patrol the major bridges and tunnels on the weekends.
The problem of missing video came to light after two men were stabbed to death on the subway - and there was no camera installed in the station to catch an image of the killer. The men were killed in a fight Sunday that started at the Christopher Street station, about four miles from the World Trade Center site.
Crime is down in the subways, even as ridership increases. In 1990, there were about 50 crimes a day reported in the subway, and now there are about five, according to police.
The NYPD is installing thousands of cameras around the city and is using private surveillance installed in major buildings as part of a massive security initiative.
"As cameras proliferate, as we build more of them, they become more instrumental in solving crimes. They also act as a deterrent," said Paul Browne, a Police Department spokesman.
But the MTA, which just last week approved $93 million in service cuts, is in charge of the cameras within the subway system. Of the 4,313 cameras, 2,270 are working and 2,043 aren't.
Some are under construction, and the agency is working to bring them on line. And about 1,000 are held up by litigation.
Meanwhile, about 600 agents stationed in the subways have been laid off as a result of the budget.
A working, comprehensive surveillance system for the city's many bridges and automobile tunnels is monitored 24 hours a day. But some of the officers who regularly patrol the bridges - and who could respond to a threat within minutes - have been taken off weekend shifts at the Queens Midtown Tunnel and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which connects Brooklyn and Staten Island.