As the investigation into the failed bombing in Times Square in New York continues, John Timoney, Senior Vice President, Consulting & Investigations for Andrews International, tells Security magazine that "I was an NYPD captain in the Times Square Area in the mid-eighties (1985-1986). The area is much safer now than it was back then. However, it can never be completely safe, especially from a terrorist attack.
"It could be made even safer if Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was provided the proper funds for the high tech CCTV camera system he wants to deploy in Midtown Manhattan, similar to the system in Lower Manhattan. Some may argue that a CCTV system alone cannot "prevent" a terrorist act and this may be true. However, such systems have assisted in the follow-up investigation, as was the case in the July 7, 2005 bombing in London," Timoney says. "The terrorist who blew up the bus was captured on the CCTV system making a phone call from a public phone. Investigators were able to trace the phone call to the handlers and the "bomb factory," recovering the bomb making materials which would have been used in future bombings. The CCTV system currently in Times Square will still enable the NYPD to pursue a suspect – the man seen changing his shirt while fleeing the scene," he says.
One of the most pleasing aspects of the Times Square attempted bombing was the actions of the street vendor who brought the smoking vehicle to the attention of the mounted police officer, he tells Security. "As the vendor mentioned during a TV interview, he had heard and paid attention to the public campaign from the NYPD to all citizens, “If you see something, tell someone," which the vendor did. The average citizen, along with private security, can literally be "the eyes and ears” of law enforcement.
In addition, he adds that "There are some who are against any CCTV system for privacy reasons and those concerns are legitimate. Today, the privacy concerns of older CCTV systems are no longer in play. There have always been concerns with the inventory and safekeeping of the video tapes. There were also real concerns of someone misusing the tapes, especially if the tapes were of some individual in a compromising position, etc. However, these concerns are largely addressed with the new digital systems that can be stored easily and access to the files can be traced similarly to how we can tell if someone went on a computer to steal a private file or document. So the privacy concerns are not as daunting as they were in the past."