T plans to place 52 new cameras at JFK/UMass station

Fifty-two new security cameras will be installed around the JFK/UMass MBTA station next year, the transit agency said this week. The company started soliciting bids for a contractor for the installation of the cameras at JFK/UMass and other stations last week, days after a woman reported an indecent assault in the Sydney Street area.

The woman, a University of Massachusetts Boston student, told police she was groped on her way to the Sydney Street entrance.

After the report, the MBTA placed the “Sky Tower,” a platform that can reach 30 feet high, with a camera attached, at the station. Last year, the tower, which sends a live video feed to MBTA police, was placed at the station after complaints of purse snatchings and stolen cell phones.

Superintendent-in-chief Joseph O’Connor said the indecent assault was an “isolated incident” and the only such assault at the station in 2012. “One, to us, is too many but we will continue to work with the community to try to solve any issues that do arise,” he said.

The overall number of incidents inside the station and around it is at ten, as of Oct. 2012, down from twenty in 2011, according to data available on the MBTA Transit Police’s website. There were fifteen reported robberies in 2011, and six in 2012. Four sex offenses were reported at the station in 2011 and none in 2012.

“We firmly believe that the station is safe but we do understand the concerns of the community,” O’Connor said.

State Rep. Marty Walsh, who represents the area at the State House and pushed for the “Sky Tower” in 2011, said he and other lawmakers are meeting with MBTA officials next week to discuss the station, the cameras, and the alleged indecent assault.

“Unfortunately it took this incident for the MBTA to respond, to actually make it happen,” he said of the cameras.

District 3 Councillor Frank Baker said residents have long complained about the Sydney Street side of the station. “The lighting’s terrible down there,” he said. “I think we need to come up with an overall plan. It lends itself to people being able to sneak up on potential victims.” Baker said he was hopeful that the officials can come up with a proactive solution. “I think we have their ear and hopefully we can get something done,” Baker said.

The other MBTA stations that will receive new cameras include Andrew Station, Charles/MGH, Harvard Square, Kendall, and Porter.

MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the installation will take place next year, and the agency will instruct the contractor to take on the JFK/UMass station first, in the late spring or early summer. O’Connor added that the cameras that are already inside JFK/UMass have assisted transit police in solving some incidents. The plans to install additional cameras have been in the “design phase,” he said.

The cameras program is funded largely by the US Department of Homeland Security. “We are a very large system and we are focusing initially on our critical infrastructure,” O’Connor said. “And we are moving to other locations as the process moves along.”