Photos: Inside The NYPD’s New “Domain Awareness” Surveillance HQ
This afternoon the NYPD debuted their “all-seeing” Domain Awareness System, which syncs the city’s 3,000 closed circuit camera feeds in Lower Manhattan, Midtown, and near bridges and tunnels with arrest records, 911 calls, license plate recognition technology, and even radiation detectors. Mayor Bloomberg dismissed concerns that this represented the most glaring example of Big Brother-style policing. “What you’re seeing is what the private sector has used for a long time,” Bloomberg said. “If you walk around with a cell phone, the cell phone company knows where you are…We’re not your mom and pop’s police department anymore.”
The system was developed with Microsoft and paid for by the city for $30 to $40 million, and has already been in use for six months. The feeds compiled by the system are kept for thirty days, then erased.
In a live demonstration of DAS, the NYPD’s director of policy and planning for counterterrorism, Jennifer Tisch, showed reporters how the system responded to a recent report of a suspicious package. A description of the package (a closed “Jack Daniels” box) was shown next to its location. Video feeds within 500 feet of the package’s location that showed the location several minutes before the package was reported to police, so that the system’s operator could determine who or what placed the package there.
In another example, a radioactive isotope—Technetium-99—was detected and the officer at the helm is shown a description of the isotope. “I want to stress that this isotope has both medical and industrial uses,” Tisch said, before adding that it would be the officer’s judgement call as to whether the isotope meant that it was a terrorist threat or someone who had recently undergone “some sort of medical procedure,” as the mayor put it. “It takes some judgement to use technology,” Bloomberg added, presumably including on-the-spot radiography in his assertion.
Reports of suspicious cars can be followed up with license-plate scanners, which will track and beam back the location of the vehicle to the system so that the police can follow it in real-time—video feeds will also show delayed images to help the officers determine if the car is in a caravan. Arrest and driving records are shown alongside the camera image. “This system is the ultimate in domain awareness,” Tisch said.
Regarding the department’s recent request for information from Twitter for a threat made by one of its users, Kelly said that social media monitoring “is not done at this location,” and that “[The NYPD] only monitors social media for specific investigations. That’s the world we live in.”
The City will receive 30% on the profits Microsoft will make selling it to other cities, although Mayor Bloomberg declined to say if that money would go back into the NYPD. “Maybe we’ll even make a few bucks.”