NYPD to test scanners with AI tech to crack down on guns in NYC subway

The NYPD plans to test metal detectors equipped with artificial intelligence technology in subway stations in a move to keep guns out of New York City’s transit system, Mayor Eric Adams announced on Tuesday.

“This is our Sputnik moment,” Adams said at a news conference at Fulton Transit Center in Lower Manhattan. “Like when Kennedy said we’re going to put a man on the moon. … Let’s bring on the scanners.”

Adams displayed scanners manufactured by Evolv, a Massachusetts-based weapons detection company that is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission for allegedly overstating its technology’s capabilities.

The announcement came as four killings have been reported in the subway so far this year, just shy of the five reported in all of 2023. It also followed New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s move to deploy 750 National Guard soldiers into the subway system, alongside MTA and state police, to help NYPD officers check riders’ bags. The department deployed 800 additional uniformed and plainclothes officers earlier this week at what it called “strategic” subway stations to crack down on fare beating as part of an initiative dubbed “Operation Fare Play.”

Neither the mayor nor NYPD officials specified how many of Evolv’s scanners would be set up in the subway system or which stations would receive them. Police will begin testing the scanners after a 90-day waiting period to decide if they should be deployed more widely, officials said. The scanners won’t use facial recognition technology but will be able to roll around through the stations, Adams said.

Riders will not be required to pass through the machines, said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Michael Gerber. The mayor said the NYPD’s deal with Evolv isn’t finalized yet and the city is accepting bids from other companies for gun tracking technology.

Adams piloted the Evolv scanners and gun detection technology from two other companies in 2022, following that year’s mass shooting on an N train in Brooklyn. The company, which also has contracts with local venues including Lincoln Center and Citi Field, tested its devices outside of City Hall.

Evolv’s website claims its scanners use “advanced sensor technology and artificial intelligence to distinguish between weapons and everyday items.” The company argues that the technology allows for “a more dignified and respectful screening process that empowers security professionals and enhances the visitor experience.”

NYPD officials said they’ve seized 19 illegal guns in the subway so far this year, up from nine during the same period in 2023.

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