The Department of Homeland Security’s recent decision to cut New York’s federal counter-terrorism funding by $140 million might actually be a blessing in disguise.
Since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, the NYPD has relied entirely on federal money to fund Operation Atlas, a highly militarized police program in which heavily armed police officers (known as Hercules teams) are deployed randomly throughout the city. Operation Atlas has also brought on a marked increase in undercover subway teams, unmarked armored vehicles, and a crack down on “fare evaders.” Most troublingly, the program has stepped up video surveillance of ordinary New Yorkers.
According to the Independent Budget Office (IBO), a non-partisan city agency that analyzes spending, the spike in the pricetag of Operation Atlas coincided with a sharp upturn in overtime pay for police. Atlas cost $26 million in 2003. By 2004, the pricetag was up to $90 million.
Another boondoggle rejected by the feds was the so-called “Ring of Steel”, an $81.5 million integrated surveillance system that would have assured that any person or vehicle south of Chambers St. would appear on the police’s closed circuit television. The Ring of Steel would have followed on the heels of an October 2004 contract awarded to Lockheed Martin to install 500 new surveillance cameras and 3,000 motion sensors in the city.
As Police Commissioner Ray Kelly notes, “our preparations come at a steep price.”