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Security concerns at the Lincoln Tunnel

February 6, 2013 2:31:27 PM PST
Sources inside Port Authority Police say investigations at the Lincoln Tunnel have been hampered because of lack of direct access to video from the tunnel's security cameras.

The Port Authority disputes that, but one incident a few months ago shows a lapse of at least 3 hours before detectives were able to view video of two men trying to breach security.

A building critical to the operations of the Lincoln Tunnel provides direct access to the tunnel infrastructure. Eyewitness News has obtained a copy of a police report that states that 3 months ago, "two males", one possibly "Middle Eastern", approached the civilian security guard in an attempt to get inside. The two suspicious men offered the guard "one hundred dollars to give them a tour of the building." The guard refused and reported the incident to the Port Authority Police.

"The first thing you want to do is look at any surveillance film that is available," Robert Egbert, Port Authority union, said.

But that video was unavailable because ''there was no one working with access to that set of cameras." The report says police ''would have to wait till the following morning to see it." Worried, police insisted the maintenance supervisor (who had access) come into work. Three-and--a-half hours later, the supervisor arrived and "provided copies of the video footage to the detectives."

"You want to identify people immediately. That did not happen," Egbert said.

While, the Port Authority gives no explanation for the 3-and-a-half hour wait to view security video , the Chief Security Officer in a statement says his officers "have 24/7 access to facility cameras." Adding that, "any statement to the contrary is false."

But we have also learned police at the George Washington Bridge are frustrated by its video surveillance system. A source says some of the bridges cameras are so antiquated that they only record when a Port Authority patrolman radios back to the command center to "roll tape":

"The year is 2013, I probably have better recording capability on my cell phone than the GWB has on their surveillance system," Egbert said.

The Port Authority admits not all the traffic cameras record, but they say the agency "is in the process of upgrading some of the closed circuit TV system at the GW."

"This has to be immediately corrected," Nick Casale, security expert, said.

This Former deputy director of counterterrorism for the MTA says he's troubled by the Port Authority's surveillance video problems.

"It would be as if the 20th precinct needs a subpoena to get a file from the 19th precinct. It makes absolutely no sense," he said.

The Port Authority says they are in the process of training police lieutenants at the tunnel so they can directly access security video. The agency adds that it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars securing their facilities.

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