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Public wants surveillance, Bloomberg says

Residents of big cities like New York and London must accept that they are under constant watch by video cameras, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, is shown a police control room during his visit to London police headquarters on Monday.Sang Tan / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Residents of big cities like New York and London must accept that they are under constant watch by video cameras, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.

Bloomberg, holding talks with his London counterpart, Ken Livingstone, said measures such as London's "ring of steel" — a network of closed-circuit cameras that monitors the city center— were a necessary protection in a dangerous world.

"In this day and age, if you think that cameras aren't watching you all the time, you are very naive," Bloomberg told reporters at London's City Hall.

"We are under surveillance all the time" from cameras in shops and office buildings, "and in London they have multiple cameras on every bus and in every subway car," he added.

"The people of London not only support it, but if Ken Livingstone didn't do it they would try to run him out of town on a rail. We live in a dangerous world, and people want to have security cameras."

During his visit, Bloomberg was getting a demonstration of the ring of steel, a system of cameras and road barriers introduced during the years of Irish Republican Army bombings to protect London's central business district.

London has one of the world's highest concentrations of surveillance cameras. An estimated 4 million CCTV cameras operate in Britain, and some civil liberties campaigners have warned the country is becoming a "surveillance state."

New York has far fewer, but the number is growing. Authorities hope to implement an $81.5 million version of the ring of steel for lower Manhattan, featuring surveillance cameras as well as barriers that could automatically block streets.

Congestion tax colleagues
Bloomberg, on a European trip focusing on environmental issues, also said he was confident of introducing a road-pricing scheme modeled on London's traffic-busting congestion charge to New York.

The $16 toll on entering the city center by car was introduced by Livingstone after he was elected in 2000 and has been credited with cutting gridlock and increasing the number of bus and bicycle journeys.

Bloomberg must persuade both New York's city council and the state legislature to back his plan, which calls for charging $8 to drive a car into Manhattan south of 86th street on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

A commission is studying Bloomberg's plan and other ways to reduce the city's traffic and is due to make a recommendation by the end of January.

The two mayors arrived at London's riverfront City Hall on Monday after a ride on a new hybrid double-decker bus, another of Livingstone's green initiatives.

Bloomberg said he was confident his toll plan — he prefers the term "congestion pricing" to London's "congestion charge" — would be introduced.

"I'm very optimistic the assembly and the senate will pass it, the governor will sign it. I just think there would be such a firestorm if they didn't, because every day our children are breathing in the air, every day our stores and business are suffering, and it is going to get worse."