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Lower Manhattan 'Ring Of Steel' To Have 3,000 Cameras By 9/11/11

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The so-called "ring of steel" is nearing completion in lower Manhattan. It's a network of security measures intended to counter-terrorism and fight crime.

CBS 2's Tony Aiello got a rare look inside the nerve center on Friday.

They are the sentinels of our high-tech age, monitoring the comings and goings of millions through a network of cameras across lower Manhattan. It's all coordinated on the 28th floor of a building downtown.

"We know it's a vulnerable area, obviously. We've had two attacks against the World Trade Center. We've had other plots against that area," NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

Kelly said the obvious goal is to prevent another terror attack, but the cameras help with street crime, too, information gleaned at the nerve center has led to more than 100 arrests in the subway system alone.

Supplementing a set of eyes is a computer program that can analyze objects and report them as suspicious.

"Size, shape, objects, abandoned packages, movement, color, instead of watching the camera the camera will give us an alert on something suspicious that's happening in the field," said Inspector Sal DiPace of the NYPD's Counterterrorism Bureau.

License plate readers and chemical and radiation detectors also send information to the nerve center.

The key to making the program work is cooperation between the NYPD, other public agencies and private property owners. Many of the cameras monitored here are owned by big landlords. The NYPD believes the value of all these eyes on the city outweighs any civil libertarian concerns about big brother.

"There's very little opposition. People believe the world has changed as a result of September 11th," Kelly said.

And by the 10th anniversary of the terror attack 3,000 cameras will be watching lower Manhattan.

In addition to all the surveillance technology there is an actual "ring of steel," a series of road barriers that can be deployed to seal off lower Manhattan in event of an emergency.

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