Subway security cameras: Congress wants answers from MTA

You can now add members of Congress to the growing list of elected officials frustrated by the lack of specifics regarding what happened with the security cameras inside a subway station where a gunman fled from the scene of a mass shooting. And Rep. Ritchie Torres of the Bronx said this is especially troubling considering that Congress has given the Metropolitan Transportation Authority tens of millions of dollars in just the last couple of years for transit security.

"The public has a right to know whether the MTA is spending those dollars efficiently to secure the subway system," said Torres, one of 16 members of Congress who have signed a letter to MTA CEO Janno Lieber.

"We write to urge you to be more transparent regarding how your agency utilizes Federal funding to secure the subway system and protect riders," the letter reads in part.

The MTA has confirmed that cameras in three stations in Brooklyn that might have been able to capture images of suspected shooter Frank James were not functioning. But the MTA insists those are the only three stations in the entire subway system, which includes 10,000 cameras, that were not working. 

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"I find the claim that all their cameras but those three at the scene of the shooting to be highly questionable," Torres said. "So the public deserves the truth. The public deserves transparency."

Congress wants to know:

  • How the MTA has used federal funding over the past two years
  • How much has gone to the camera system
  • How often the cameras are checked and by whom

The signers of the letters want answers by April 30.

"We have a right to know whether these taxpayer-funded cameras are working," Torres said.

An MTA spokesperson told FOX 5 NY that the agency will give the lawmakers a detailed response and that video and other evidence throughout the transit system "was critical in helping to identify suspect Frank James."

At an unrelated public event on Friday morning, Gov. Kathy Hochul and MTA CEO Janno Lieber briefly spoke about the letter from members of Congress.

"I also just want to say I understand the concern. I'm a former member of Congress. People have questions. They'll get the answers they need. That's important," Hochul said. "People need to feel safe and secure, and we can always strive to do better. And I appreciate the leadership of the MTA, who you'll hear from in a second on this very issue, but this is an important issue to get it right."

Lieber then added that despite the problems with the three cameras, many others captures images of the suspect on that day. He said the MTA provided the NYPD with 36 videos to help in the investigation. 

"And many of those, we had several images of the suspect —  getting on the train, getting off the train, riding a bus and so on. We had MetroCard data, so we worked intensely with the police supporting that based on those camera resources and the camera," Lieber said. "We made [cameras] a priority, so we made it a goal to have a camera in every station and we got there in a few short years cost us hundreds of millions of dollars and we did that."

He said the failure rate of the cameras is about 1%.

With FOX 5 NY Staff.