Transit advocates push for video surveillance

Toronto's mass-transit system needs a networked, digitized video surveillance system that would guard against terrorism much better than the existing closed-circuit TV technology, according to the president of a public transportation advocacy group in Canada.

"What we have is an outdated and outmoded system," said Dan Hammond, president of Transport 2000 Ontario, based in Toronto. "It needs to be a centralized digital network."

Hammond said Toronto's current camera system, installed in the 1980s, is inadequate in comparison to the more advanced video cameras used in London's train system. London authorities used the video footage to help identify suspects behind the July 7 train bombings.

One of the major shortcomings of Toronto's existing closed-circuit TV system is that it relies on various employees, including ticket sellers, to continuously watch the video for unusual activity?an unrealistic expectation, Hammond said. "It expects employees who are doing other tasks to monitor the TVs," he said.

The camera system needs to be centralized and networked so that a designated operator can observe activities more effectively, he said. It also needs to be supplemented with video technology that can help identify events such as passengers leaving packages unattended or an audio device that would sound an alarm when it identifies unusual events such as people shouting, Hammond added.

Transport 2000 Ontario is an advocacy group representing riders of Canada's largest urban transit system, located in Toronto. It is part of a larger advocacy group called Transport 2000 Canada. Hammond said he did not have cost estimates for the recommended video improvements.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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