Surveillance History in New York City

See how security surveillance in NYC has evolved over the years leading up to 9/11.

1955: The formation of NYPD’s “Red Squad”

1965: Surveillance cameras are implemented in public gathering areas

1969: Police surveillance cameras are installed near City Hall

1980: The Handschu Consent Decree was signed regulating police surveillance of political dissents who aren’t accused /suspected of criminal activity

1988: The “Vessel Traffic Service”, a surveillance services, is installed in New York Harbor

1993: First Terrorist Attack on the World Trade Center. After, the NYPD, FBI, and CIA filled the area with surveillance cameras.

1993: The Department of Transportation installed red-light surveillance cameras

1996: ATM Safety mandated the installation of video cameras at all bank ATMs

1997: The ‘VIPER’ Unit installed surveillance cameras

1998: The Narcotics Division in Washington Square Park (6th Precinct) installs surveillance cameras

2001: The attack on the World Trade Center that changed millions of lives

2002: The Statue of Liberty and Ellis island installed facial recognition software advised by the United States Parks Services

Many of us remember exactly what we were doing on September 11, 2001. It started out as such a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky and unfortunately ended in tragedy. Our security and surveillance system as a country has changed drastically due to our leaders realizing that we are just as susceptible to terrorism as any other place in the world.  Security and surveillance became a top priority so we may never again face such a horrific tragedy.

The USA Patriot Act

  • In October 2001 President George W Bush signed this to ease fears after 9/11 by adding an extra layer to national security.

Telephone Wire tapping

  • To increase the federal government’s ability to locate terror calls as well as people aiding and abetting can now listen and record your telephone conversations at any time.

Email Tracking

  • The government can track and review your emails at any time to see who is sending and receiving emails that can track terrorists and those supporting them.

Internet Activity Security

  • Not just limited to your search engine history, the government is allowed to track your online activity should they suspect you or someone you know is partaking in terrorist tendencies.

Banking and Credit History Access

  • The government also has access to your credit history as it reveals much about your identity than just how you spend your money. By accessing this information, the federal government can see if you are financing and/or aiding a terrorist. In addition, federal agencies access credit history to gain additional information such as where you lived or if you changed your name.

Security Cameras and Surveillance

  • Throughout the streets in NYC, you can find security cameras perched throughout keeping a watchful eye on citizens daily activities and potential terrorist movement.

Airport Security Increases

  • Since flying after 9/11, it is a lot harder to get in and out of the airport due to several security checkpoints and facial recognition software before boarding your flight. TSA officers were also trained in “behavior detection” to recognize a list of actions considered suspicious. Some of these checks include:
      • ID/ticket Name Verification
      • Shoe and increased clothing inspection
      • No liquids above 3.4oz
      • Body scans and increased pat downs, and increased baggage and electronic equipment screening.


Babu-Kurra. “How 9/11 Completely Changed Surveillance in U.S.” Wired, Conde Nast,

Roos, Dave. “5 Ways 9/11 Changed America.”, A&E Television Networks, 1 Sept. 2020,