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Hundreds of subway security cameras not working

A security camera is visible above subway riders entering the 53rd and Seventh Ave Subway Station (Peter Foley)

Down in the subway, big brother isn’t watching.

Nearly half of the 4,313 security cameras installed in the subway aren’t working because they are unable to power up or are suffering from software glitches, the MTA said Sunday. The need to have more surveillance in the system is a priority for transit advocates as the MTA prepares to lay off 600 station agents in May.

“Now there’s neither people nor cameras,” said Gene Russianoff, of the Straphangers Campaign.

In the past decade, the MTA has installed cameras across the system at subway turnstiles, platforms and tunnels to combat crime and fare beating. But of the 2,000 cameras that only records footage and are placed around the turnstiles, nearly half aren’t working because they were never fully rigged, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said.

“What’s the point of putting them up there if they don’t work?” said Quincy Calimese, 27, a straphanger from the South Bronx.

The dead zones include 23 key stations, such as 53rd Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan, where two violent crimes occurred in the last four months, according to union officials who service the cameras.

The MTA refused to talk about surveillance in specific locations, but Ortiz said that the agency will soon award a contract to get some 900 turnstile cameras up and running.

Another 1,100 cameras located throughout the system that would send live feeds and allow officials to monitor activity in real time are not working because of a software glitch, Ortiz said. The MTA is in a legal dispute with the contractor, Lockheed Martin, but the agency is working with another contractor to make them live. Ortiz couldn’t say when the work will be finished.

Meanwhile, Ortiz maintains that the subway is as safe as its been in decades. There were 2,034 major crimes in the subways last year, a 55 percent decrease from 1999, transit data show.

Julia Borovskaya contributed to this story.

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