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NYC will try gun scanners in subway system in effort to deter violence underground

Legal Aid attorney Jerome Greco said gun detection systems can trigger false alarms and cause panic

A member of the New York National Guard gestures to a subway rider at the 42nd Street station in the Times Square area of New York City, U.S., March 27, 2024.
A member of the New York National Guard gestures to a subway rider at the 42nd Street station in the Times Square area of New York City, U.S., March 27, 2024.Shannon Stapleton (REUTERS)

New York City officials announced a pilot program on Thursday to deploy portable gun scanners in the subway system, part of an effort to deter violence underground and to make the system feel safer. The scanners will be introduced in certain stations after a legally mandated 90-day waiting period, Mayor Eric Adams said.

“Keeping New Yorkers safe on the subway and maintaining confidence in the system is key to ensuring that New York remains the safest big city in America,” said Adams, who also announced a plan to send additional outreach workers into subway stations to try to get people with mental health issues who are living in the system into treatment.

Adams said officials would work to identify companies with expertise in weapons detection technology and that after the waiting period the scanners would be instituted in some subway stations “where the NYPD will be able to further evaluate the equipment’s effectiveness.”

The scanner that Adams and police officials introduced during Thursday’s news conference in a lower Manhattan station came from Evolv, a publicly traded company that has been accused of doctoring the results of software testing to make its scanners appear more effective than they are.

Jerome Greco, supervising attorney of the digital forensics unit at the Legal Aid Society, said gun detection systems can trigger false alarms and cause panic. “This Administration’s headstrong reliance on technology as a panacea to further public safety is misguided, costly, and creates significant invasions of privacy,” Greco said in a news release.

Adams said the city would perform its own analysis of the scanners’ accuracy. “People may have had bad experiences with this technology,” Adams, a former transit police officer, said. “What we witnessed, it’s living up to our expectations. And we’re going to do an analysis and determine, hey, is it living up to our expectations.”

City officials did not say exactly where the scanners would be installed. The device they demonstrated at the Fulton Street station beeped after brief delay when a police officer with a holstered gun went through but was silent when officers carrying cellphones and other electronic devices passed through.

The scanner announcement came days after a fatal shove in an East Harlem subway station on Monday once again brought the issue of subway safety to the forefront.

Also on Monday, New York City officials announced a plan to send 800 more police officers into the subway system to crack down on fare evasion.

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