NYPD Installing Scanners to Reduce Subway Violence

AP Photo/John Minchillo

New Yorkers are kind of angry.

The subways in New York City were incredibly safe for years. Law enforcement worked hard to make them that way and things were great. Since many people in the city use the subway instead of having a car, violence on the subway being practically non-existent was a good thing.


Those days are over.

These days, they've got the National Guard on the platform of their gun-free subway system that is anything but gun-free.

The latest move to reduce violence? Scanners.

The NYPD is set to start rolling out new technology that’ll scan straphangers for firearms in subway stations amid a wave of underground violence, Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday.

Hizzoner showed off a freestanding scanner manufactured by Evolv, a weapons detection company, at the busy Fulton Transit Center in Lower Manhattan as he touted details of a soon-to-be-implemented pilot program.

“This is our Sputnik moment,” Adams said. “Like when Kennedy said we’re going to put a man on the moon … Let’s bring on the scanners.”

Now, I'm not ludite, so I have an appreciation of all the ways new technology can benefit us, and these scanners are interesting. These are more than just metal detectors, which is good since that would be a logictical nightmare if everyone had to divest themselves of metal before walking through to get on the subway train. No, they use a different technology to detect firearms.

Evolv claims to use ultra-low frequency, electromagnetic fields to detect weapons--not just firearms, apparently--which is a major leap forward for weapons detection.


We just don't know how well it's going to work on something like the NYC subway system.

But as that's not the only issue being brought up, either.

The mayor wouldn’t say how many of the scanners will initially be set up in the subway system, or at which stations, when the program eventually gets underway in the coming months.

The exact logistics, too, weren’t immediately clear — including whether every straphanger will have to walk through the scanner immediately before or after the turnstile, or if there’s a chance they could just sidestep the detector altogether.

So it probably won't be at every subway station, which means potential troublemakers will just use different stations, and we don't even know if people will be required to walk through it?

Yet even if they did, there's a personnel issue to be considered here.

And understand that it will take a team, even if it's just a small one. At least one to chase down those who try to skirt the system and one to keep people moving through it.


But this post on X, formerly Twitter, brings us back to the fact that for three decades, the subways were safe. What happened?

Well, a few things, but mostly an argument that law enforcement efforts that kept the city safe were racist. 

Stop and frisk and broken window policing worked, though it does look like stop and frisk had some issues. The issues, though, weren't that the method was racist, but that it may have been applied in a way that at least looked racist. Had it been applied more equitably, there likely would have been less issue.

Regardless, those systems kept New York pretty safe and that included the subway system.

Rather than go back to what worked, though, New York City is going to spend billions on a system that is going to be circumventable to some degree or another.

I think the word we're looking for here is "boondoggle."

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