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NYC has 'smart' camera network to thwart terror attacks

In a press conference regarding the news that the Boston Marathon bombers were intending on striking New York's Times Square, Mayor Michael Bloomberg touts camera technology and vows to continue to keep people safe.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday that if the Boston bomb suspects had made it to Times Square, they would have come face-to-lens with the city's "extensive network of cameras" -- part of an interactive nerve center that lets police do everything from read license plates to identify suspicious packages.

The Domain Awareness System, nicknamed "the dashboard," was developed by Microsoft for the NYPD -- a three-year project that cost up to $40 million.

It centralizes and synthesizes mountains of data and footage: street maps, feeds from more than 4,000 existing security cameras, 911 alerts,  arrest records, parking tickets and even radiation detectors.

The result is a one-stop shop at NYPD headquarters in lower Manhattan for authorities responding to -- and trying to prevent -- major crimes and terrorist attacks.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, the NYPD gave TODAY a behind-the-scenes look at the sophisticated system, which Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said is doing its job.


"We've had 16 plots against the city since Sept. 11, and none have succeeded," he said.

Officials showed how hundreds of scanners that read license plates can spot a vehicle that's just been put on a watch list and how smart cameras fueled by artificial intelligence can flag a bag that's been left unattended too long.

Cops are looking for a suspect in a red shirt? No problem -- the cameras can highlight anyone in that color in a crowd.

The system was the product of a collaboration between Microsoft and the NYPD.

"It was created by cops for cops," Jessica Tisch, director of planning and policy for the counterterrorism unit, told the Associated Press earlier this year.

"We thought a lot about what information we want up close and personal and what needs to be a click away. It's all baked in there."

As a result of the partnership, the NYPD will get a 30 percent cut as Microsoft sells the system to other police departments around the country and the world.

Boston doesn't have a system like this -- yet -- though the FBI did identify the marathon bombing suspects through surveillance and spectator cameras.

The release of their pictures is what sparked their desperate, bloody attempt to flee Boston in the hopes of heading, officials revealed Thursday, to Times Square to blow up the rest of their bombs.

"We’ve made major investments in camera technology – notwithstanding the objections of some special interests," Bloomberg said Thursday, referring to invasion of privacy concerns that civil libertarians have raised about heightened surveillance.

"The attacks in Boston, I think, demonstrate just how valuable those cameras can be."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Police are beginning to make use of cutting-edge technology that could help officers spot a bomb before it goes off. NBC's Jeff Rossen reports.

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