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MTA Official Calling For Surveillance Cameras With Facial Recognition To Deter 'Idiots,' Criminals

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Fed up with the insanity on buses, subways and commuters rails, the head of the MTA's finance committee is calling for the installation of surveillance cameras and facial recognition technology to catch and deter criminals.

A homeless man threatening subway passengers with a hammer, an emotionally disturbed person cutting the rubber accordion that connects two sections of a bus, a train operator left with a black eye and bruises after a rider attacked her, a man throwing a cup of urine at a bus driver, someone throwing a shovel and hazardous material on the subway tracks, which could have caused a derailment.

MTA finance chair Larry Schwartz says it's time to stop the insanity and install surveillance cameras everywhere -- on buses, subways and commuter rails.

"I want the riding public and our MTA employees to feel safe at every location within the MTA," he said.

Schwartz says he will demand that the agency's new capital plan include the tens of millions of dollars necessary to flood the system with cameras, CBS2 political reporter Marcia Kramer says.

mta subway station surveillance camera
(Credit: CBS2)

"I want people who are thinking of committing a crime -- whether it's an assault, a robbery or anything else -- that they will be caught because they will be seen on a camera," Schwartz said.

While cops can't be everywhere, the cameras can be, helping them to find the bad guys and arrest them.

"I believe that when the idiots and the criminals know that there are cameras everywhere, that's also going to create a deterrence," Schwartz said.

Schwartz says he will work with cops to figure out the best way to configure the new surveillance.

"What's important is to come up with a smart strategic plan ... to figure out where to place these cameras, the type of cameras, including whether or not these cameras should have facial recognition," Schwartz said.

Most MTA riders told CBS2 they support the idea.

"It's a good idea. All for it," one MTA rider said. "This is a dangerous world we live in and lots of weird stuff goes on here."

"I think it's a great initiative. It's really needed it now, especially with the subway crime going up," Upper Manhattan resident Anthony Zarzuela said.

"Yes, it would make me feel safer," another rider said.

"I think it's a good idea for safety reasons," another rider said.

Some found the plan too invasive, however.

"I wouldn't want that. It's too intrusive ... We got enough cameras looking at us all day long anyway," Bronx resident James Parker said.

While Schwartz says the MTA board should include camera funding in its next capital budget, which gets voted on in the fall, he also suggested that the MTA might be able to get financial support from other sources, like district attorneys who could earmark forfeiture funds.

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