On Tuesday, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that through the Urban Area Security Initiative federal grant program, New York City will be getting cameras inside their entire fleet of subway cars. Credit: NY Governor's Office

The MTA will install surveillance cameras on all of its nearly 6,500 subway cars, in its latest effort to address widespread concerns about safety in the transit system, officials said Tuesday.

Gov. Kathy Hochul joined Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Janno Lieber on Tuesday to outline the $5.5 million plan, which entails installing two cameras on each car. The agency plans to install cameras in hundreds of subway cars per month and expects every car to be equipped by 2025.

The effort comes as the MTA looks for new ways to address fears about safety on the subway system, which has been the setting for several high-profile crimes over the last year, including an April 12 mass shooting on a Brooklyn N train that injured 29 people. Through August, major felonies on subways are up 49% compared with the same period last year. That includes five murders, one fewer than in the first eight months of last year, according to NYPD statistics.

In June, the MTA launched a pilot program to install cameras on 100 trains.

“The message is … loud and clear. If you prey on New Yorkers, or commit vandalism or damage MTA facilities, we’re going to have pictures of you,” Lieber said. “And the NYPD is going to catch you, going to find you, and going to punish you.”

The MTA is using a $2 million federal Homeland Security grant to partially cover the cost of retrofitting its existing subway fleet with the cameras. Another $3.5 million will come from the MTA's "Subway Action Plan," which was created in 2017 to address lagging subway service. Cars purchased in the future will already have cameras installed.

The announcement came a day after the MTA announced plans to create a special police unit to patrol Long Island Rail Road trains. The 60 MTA police officers will begin riding LIRR and Metro-North trains in January. Major crimes on the LIRR were up by 73% through the first eight months of 2022 compared with the same period the previous year.

The LIRR began installing cameras on its trains in 2014, and now has them in place throughout 90% of its fleet.

Mohamed Taguine, spokesman for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said “there’s no evidence" that the expansion of cameras in transit will improve safety. He chided Hochul and the MTA for releasing few details of the plan, including how long video will be saved, and with whom it will be shared.

“Living in a sweeping surveillance state shouldn’t be the price we pay to be safe,” Taguine said.

Hochul appeared to dismiss privacy concerns on Tuesday, noting that “security cameras have been a way of life” for some time.

“You walk into any grocery store, you’re being watched,” Hochul said. “So, [if] you think 'Big Brother' is watching you on the subways, you’re absolutely right. … If you’re concerned about this, the best answer is: Don’t commit any crimes on the subways.”

Danny Pearlstein, spokesman for the Riders Alliance — a transit advocacy group — said he was unconvinced that the cameras would significantly reduce crime.

He wondered if police will collect so much data that they'd have a hard time sifting through it.

"Will the PD really be able to catch dangerous people after a crime, or will this just more be monitoring people’s movements?" said Pearlstein, who believes, to improve safety, the state and MTA should bolster service, and attract more riders. “There’s safety in numbers."

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