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Bloomberg defends city surveillance camera plan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Plans to use surveillance cameras in New York City would erode residents’ privacy but boost their security, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Tuesday.

“We just have to do something here to make the city safer. Sadly, it is a little bit of an infringement on your rights,” Bloomberg told a news conference.

His comments followed a visit to London, where he toured the so-called Ring of Steel network of surveillance cameras and roadblocks in the city’s financial district.

The mayor said he was impressed to find two to three cameras in every subway car and that New York should match that by installing cameras on subways and buses.

New York subways are not equipped with surveillance cameras, though some buses and subway stations are, MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

Last year, Bloomberg proposed a new $90 million surveillance initiative, modeled on London’s Ring of Steel.

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Called the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, it would cover the Wall St. area, where security has been heightened since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The scheme would include 3,000 public and private sector closed-circuit cameras and other surveillance equipment as well as movable barricades to quickly seal off streets.

It is on track to be completed by the end of 2009, said Police Commission Ray Kelly.

Civil liberties groups criticize the plan for violating privacy and fear the information gathered could be misused.

Norman Siegel, a lawyer and former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, has proposed making the abuse of surveillance camera footage a criminal offense.

“If I’m in a car with a mistress or a political person, the government doesn’t get that,” he said.

The New York surveillance system would be the first of its kind in a U.S. city.