The setting could pass for a high-tech trading floor, says the Associated Press, with men in dark suits, sitting at tiered banks of desks, studying a steady stream of video and data on floor-to-ceiling monitors. Inside the unmarked doors to the 28th-floor office near Wall Street, counterterrorism officers with the New York Police Department have transformed the space into the new nerve center for a plan to protect Lower Manhattan from terrorist threats. The center began operating this month, the first phase of a $100 million project created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack that destroyed the World Trade Center.
The project relies largely on 3,000 closed-circuit cameras covering roughly 1.7 square miles in and around the financial district. So far, about 150 cameras are in place, with 250 more expected to come on line by the end of the year and the rest by 2011. The program was modeled in part after the “ring of steel” surveillance measures in London’s financial district. The 33 officers assigned to the center monitor the live feeds round-the-clock. As the volume of images increases, the police department hopes to incorporate “smart surveillance” software that can detect possible signs of trouble – an unattended bag, an unauthorized vehicle – and sound an alarm.