FILE - As a subway train enters the Canal St. Q and N station, a NYPD transit officer from the anti terrorism unit gestures to the driver, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in New York. In the aftermath of a mass shooting on the subway, New York Mayor Eric Adams has floated a high-tech idea of deploying scanners that can spot someone carrying a gun into the transit system before they have a chance to use it. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
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By David Porter, AP

In the aftermath of a mass shooting on a New York City subway train, the mayor floated a high-tech idea: deploy scanners that can spot someone carrying a gun into the transit system before they have a chance to use it.

The technology to scan large numbers of people quickly for weapons does exist, and is used now to screen people at places like sports stadiums and theme parks.

But security experts say installing such a system in the city’s sprawling, porous subway system in a way that would make a difference would be difficult, if not impossible.

The problem wouldn’t necessarily be the technology — but rather the reality that scanners need to be accompanied by human operators to confront people carrying firearms illegally.

“Logistically, it would be a nightmare. You’re going to have to tie up a lot of officers doing this,” said James Dooley, a retired New York Police Department captain who served in the department’s transit division. “We have hundreds of stations, and the fact of the matter is that putting someone at every entrance to every station is logistically impossible.”

Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain, has acknowledged the challenges but has said the system might still be worth trying at select locations as a deterrent.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams
New York City Mayor Eric Adams (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

“We want to be able to just pop up at a station someplace so people don’t know it’s there,” the Democrat said, “similar to what we do when we do car checkpoints.”

The push for better subway security got renewed urgency in April after a gunman set off smoke bombs and sprayed a subway compartment with gunfire, wounding 10 people.

Then, on May 22, another gunman killed a passenger in what authorities said appeared to be a random attack.

A day after that killing, Adams again expressed interest in weapon-screening technology. And soon, mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, intensified the debate over how to address gun violence.

In the New York City subway, the screening wouldn’t resemble airport checkpoints, an untenable solution for a system with 472 stations, all with multiple entrances. Instead, Adams referenced a technology that uses sensors to detect metal but also can determine the shape of an object, such as a gun, while people pass by uninterrupted.

Evolv, a Boston-area company, uses the technology at facilities including pro sports stadiums in Atlanta and Nashville, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and, in a recent test, at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, though not in any mass transit systems.

Evolv gun detector search new york subway security
Evolv weapon detection system

The screeners can scan 3,600 people per hour, according to the company. They also can produce false positives from items such as Chromebooks, though.

In an email, Dana Loof, Evolv’s chief marketing officer, said false positives “are an order of magnitude lower” than traditional metal detectors, but acknowledged that transit systems would pose unique challenges.

“Any technology is only one piece of the solution which includes the security professionals, the operational environment, and the protocols they follow,” Loof said.

Similar screening devices made by QinetiQ, an England-based defense technology company, were part of a pilot program in the Los Angeles mass transit system in 2018 and currently are used when threat levels are elevated, said Los Angeles Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero. The machines project scanning waves at passersby from a distance.

Identifying someone with a weapon is only half the challenge.

“It’s also manpower,” said Donell Harvin, a senior policy researcher at the Rand Corp. and a former security chief for the Washington, D.C., government.

Adams has not publicly discussed how much the machines, and operating them, could cost New York City, but Harvin acknowledged the price could be steep.

“If you have a determined assailant, you’re not going to just have a security guard there; you’ll have to have a police officer,” Harvin said. “It’s tough. You can harden every station, but who’s going to want to pay a $10 fare? Because the cost is going to be passed on to the rider.”

Still, because you can’t put cops on every car and in every station, Harvin said, “you have to invest in some technology.”

“It’s very complex, but people have to get together and talk about this, because what’s being done now isn’t cutting it.”

Violent attacks in New York City’s subway system remain relatively rare compared with crime above ground. And the city overall is one of the nation’s safest large cities.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on people’s sense of safety, as has a string of high-profile crimes, including the fatal push of a woman in front of a train by a man later ruled too mentally ill to stand trial. In response, the MTA said it would test safety barriers at some stations.

The number of transit system crimes reported by the NYPD so far this year has been on par with years before the pandemic, but public perception has been that there is new unruliness underground.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has succeeded in getting 1,000 more police officers assigned to the system, but its chair, Janno Lieber, was candid last week when asked about the current climate.

“This week is a terrible week,” he said, referring to the May 22 shooting. “This week I cannot say to any New York City subway rider, ‘Don’t feel afraid,’ because what happened is a terrifying nightmare.”

Any workable security upgrade would probably have to encompass a combination of measures, experts said.

Dooley envisioned a limited rollout of officers using handheld metal detectors at high-traffic stations but acknowledged that would cover only a fraction of the system’s vast territory and could lead to civil liberties complaints, including the potential for racial profiling.

Police officers already do spot checks of people’s bags at some subway entrances, but those checks are so infrequent that most people ride for years without being subjected to a search.

Dorothy Moses Schulz, a retired police captain on the MTA’s MetroNorth rail system and a professor emerita at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, suggested more police in the subways and a sustained commitment to addressing homelessness could help “send a message that we’re trying to make this an orderly system, which would bring back people.”

“If more people feel the system is working, they will come back, and when more come back, that makes the system safer,” she said.

Lieber said last week that the agency is open to new approaches.

“We are serious about exploring every one of these technologies,” he said. “I think we will get there, but it’s a question of time and technology development.”

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77 COMMENTS

  1. Before I read last the headline I will guess they have no realistic way to provide necessary manpower for enforcement and lack the will/ability to lock up the offenders due to current laws, politics, and likely demographics of offenders. Time to read and compare.

    • Implementation will be interesting to watch. “Sports stadiums and theme parks” are private businesses. Public transportation areas are…well…public. I’m curious to see how TPTB in New York are going to justify intrusion into your private space (e.g., under your clothing) while you’re on public property. That’s a 4th Amendment SCOTUS case with a nice bow tied around it.

      • “That’s a 4th Amendment SCOTUS case with a nice bow tied around it.”
        That’s what I thought about RedFlag laws but it seems a lot of politicians just don’t care about our Constitution anymore. You have that idiot Senator Murphy talking about packing the Supreme Court blatantly showing his disregard for the Judicial branch of government’s reason for existing. Basically an in your face take over of the Court. Yes we know our liberal justices have no integrity and will vote in our favor regardless of the Constitutionality of the Court’s decision.

        • quote—————–Murphy talking about packing the Supreme Court———quote

          You conservatives are supreme hypocrites. That is exactly what Mitch Moscow McConnell did when he rejected Obama’s supreme court nominee. His lame excuse was it was an election year and then the lying bastard turned around and pushed through a conservative justice a year or so later also during an election year.

          Biden is a moron for not appointing at least 3 radical left wing Socialist judges and doing away with the filibuster. He should have done that the day he was elected. By now we would have affordable health care and affordable education for students.

        • Yep, we need to push back against Republicans (and vote against all but maybe a couple of Democrats), until he was read the riot act by even the NRA Trump said stupid stuff like: “we take the guns first, and do due process later.”

          Which reminds me, I need to write my Congressman, Senators, and a couple of DC political types I donated to. Gotta keep reminding them that we are always watching and grading them.

        • @dacian – McConnell gambled and won, Ginsburg gambled and lost. We all won with a greatly improved court.

        • Cry more dacian…
          Conservative justices read a law and and decide on the Constitutionality of that law. Liberal justices do the same except for the Constitutionality aspect. They adjudicate as to how it benefits their party. So take your accusation of hypocrisy and shove it.

        • “By now we would have affordable health care and affordable education for students.”

          The Biden administration has been a dumpster fire of 8% inflation and in some sectors of the economy much higher than that.

          But you would have us believe that somehow if the supreme court were stacked the right way – the two most costly things in our economy would magically become affordable.

          Socialists and communists should not be anywhere near the economic levers of power.

      • baseless vehicle checkpoints have been declared unconstitutional intrusioins into our right to privacy. Further, THOSE screenings have been VERY badly abused over time. Dpes anyone else find a vividpicture coming to mind where chp happens to have a metal tool of some size in his pocket, s he is on his wy to USE IT, the mqchine tqgs him, coppers jump him he resists gets shot or seriously hurt……

        SOME folks are of class which the ever benevolent and helpful City hth deigned they are permitted to carry a loaded handgun in public. HOW will the mchine discern THESE citizens?

        What they MUST do, s lluded to above, is to start JAILING anyone who breaks laws whilst using the subway systems. Any beating, theft, abuse, viollence, vandalism, destruction, MUST be punished. Else they will not simply continue, but contiue to MULTIPLY.

        Nah, this is grandstanding. At near its worst. One more nail in the coffin of my long-standing decision to NEVER set foot in that most wretched city. No, not even inside an aircraft landing/stopping over in NYC. Or Joisey, either for that matter.

        • Do you even English, bro? I have to admit, I stopped reading halfway through your comment because it’s too choppy.

      • I Haz – remember how much screeching was done about ‘stop and frisk’ – more than enough it ‘went away’. That level of screech would be like a whisper if this tech were to be implemented.

      • and guess who just had their CPA go buy a bunch of stock of this company that they are going to “invest” (incest) in? the pubic serpent in the gov’t.

  2. As before, armed citizens will ignore the laws, take the entrances without detectors, and move on about their lives. It would be funny/sad if a bunch of money were spent only to have the Supreme Court tell NYC it’s all irrelevant.
    As demonstrated in schools, law enforcement simply can’t be everywhere, and all the wishful thinking, demonstrations, crooked leadership, and money in NYC simply can’t change that fact.

    • There IS one tack that would go a long ways toward ending the sort of violence ha all these paul a TISH ins all knicker-be-knotted: do what SCOTUS seems very likely to DO.. end the prohibitions against we normal folks carrying about with us upon our persons the most effective means to deter, prevent, and end injustified violence against persons. I won’t go about in pubilc without mine, and will not voluntarily go where having it wiht me is prohibited. Never watched a sports game live since those stupid rules came iin. I still have to get back to my car after the gamne, right, but no they want my gun to stay HOME where it is a funny looking paperweight

      • Tio – that sounds like many (most?) of us 😉
        OTOH guns look LOTS better than throw pillows or paper weights. More effective too.

      • only a fool would voluntarily live in a yankee run hell hole of a city/state. Proudly brag about their family destroying the republic 160 years ago. enjoy your stay in hell FOREVER… you have earned it

      • Well, no… but I was hoping prices had come down somewhat during the past few decades… I’m willing to spend $50 on it.

        • I will go as high as $75 for a 9mm blow-a-lung-out, high caliber assault pistol with an extra-large clipazine, and one of those things that go up.

    • You mean the Gock 7? The porcelain gun made in Germany that doesn’t show up your x ray machine?

  3. Like google the mayor will be watching every step you take, everywhere you go, he’ll be watching you.

    Pass Constitutional Carry or continue supplying criminals with endless soft targets.

  4. I always liked the idea of detectors at these “fish in a barrel” zones.

    I guess there’s a certain amount of comfort to be had mixing a high pitched digital alert sound with the gunfire?

  5. This is why I cavity carry, ultimate concealability. Just a quick cough and out comes your pistol ready to for use.

  6. the system might still be worth trying at select locations as a deterrent (emphasis added)

    You mean profiling?😮

    • The moment that along with may be expensive (when has spending other people’s money been an issue here?) were mentioned I assumed it was not planned to happen unless it has a lot of public approval and this is doing something (floating ideas) to fill the news pages to distract from other issues.

      • Yet another instance where Descartes’s timeless “I think; therefore I am” has been replaced by “I feel; therefore I am right.”

        P.S. TTAG’s moderation filter hits a new low by screening out a comment about Descartes.

        • Good call! Every other nonhuman thing without reason or responsibility is claimed to have “rights”. Why not add moderation filters to the list?

  7. Just waisting more time, money, and lives concentrating on the wrong thing while ignoring the real issues.

  8. And the system is so selective that it can be defeated with someone carrying a Chromebook or other ruggedized laptop.

  9. The cheapest way to solve NYC problem is lock up the criminals on a sinking boat preferably 12 miles off the coast.

    • Repurpose one of the old trash barges, the kind where the trucks would dump all the “stuff” onto the deck, a large tug would tow a float of them past the Intarnaional Boundary, the bottom would open up and buh bai to all tht stuff. Herd the criminals on, and use them the sameway. No need to reinvent the wheel.

      • Tio – bonus points if we can figure out a way to get the united nations folks on one of the trips. Not sure if one of those barges can make it up the Potomac to the district of corruption. If they can, it would likely take several trips to clean that mess up though.

  10. We were in that sewage laden and run down subway system 2 weeks ago. Compared to Boston and DC the system should be closed and filled in with concrete.

    SCOTUS is getting ready to release guns on NYC and this idiot comes up with a plan that has no potential for being useable. However, the govt montra is “at least he has a plan”.

      • Even more precisely, it simply declares that the ABSENCE of such restrictions is the Law of the Land and thus that MUST become the status quo once more. Those “infringements” are null, void, mnot lw at all, and must not be enfroced.

      • the SCOTUS is pro-racist, murder, theft, ignorant, 87 genders, you MUST buy something? Only a fool would still have respect for morons & tyrants in robes

  11. Sooner or later they will find out that fully automated systems don’t work as well and people will find a way around it. The automat cafeterias are gone, even the idea of a fully automated laundromat is being replaced by having an attendant there at all times. The attendant can take in dry cleaning sell cups of soap from bulk(instead of the expensive tiny boxes), they are there to refund money if there is a problem and a deterrent to vandalism of the machines.
    It works to have an attendant, as society breaks down further, a real person running security makes sense.

  12. Wonderful idea. The mayor can ask theBiden for a 4 or 5 billion$ fed loan to get the scanners plan started and then the mayor’s brother in law of ScannerMatic’s can get rich and the mayor can give theBiden some of the money money.

    • possum – how many billions (or was it ‘just’ millions?) did mayor big bird’s spouse somehow manage to ‘lose’? IIRC it was in the same neighborhood as hillz did well sec-state.
      BTW the big guy would likely get his cut (fair share?) before noo yawk city got one thin dime.

  13. If Adams is going to order detectors installed throughout the subway system, he’s going to get massive kickbacks from the company that makes them. Because that’s how grifters roll.

    NYC runs on bribes.

  14. More stupidity, and this will help the innocent people from getting mugged how? The simple answer to all the crime and shootings is to have an armed presence. When are they going to get this thru their thick heads? It is so simple but they want to control you instead of letting you protect yourself. Being armed is a equalizer for the weaker person to defend themselves against a larger threat. Try coming to a pro gun state and starting trouble and see how that goes for the criminal.

    • Many years back, my family went to Noo York to visit family and show my kids where I grew up. ( I’m a happy Floridian for the past 35 yrs.) We went to all the touristy spots, and on the subway home, my wife put her arm around me and her eyes got really BIG. Her hand happened to touch my holster with my Colt .380 in it. This was back when there were no metal detectors in every building. I felt very safe all day.

  15. A ban on public transport carry should be ripe for a challenge if nation-wide shall-issue will be the ‘law of the land’.

    Sealed in a subway car in motion is exactly the kind of place where armed self-defense is most necessary…

  16. What if somebody puts their gun in a little metal pink rainbow and unicorn print lunch box so the fabulous machine can’t see it?

    Does Hunter Biden sell these machines?

  17. Lets just face it the Democrats are loaded with an overwhelming number of incompetents and we see it every day from Mayors, Governors, local, state and federal legislators etc. Treasury Secretary says she made a mistake in judging inflation. When you flood the Country with money that is precisely what happens. These people are fools.

  18. I’m just going to go ahead and assume that these magic gun detectors will end up working about as well as the camera system’s that supposedly monitor the area where that subway shooting happened. In other words, they don’t.

    Just in case you missed it it was revealed that the cameras in the subway station with that recent shooting were all offline. But the NYPD swears that all the other tends of thousands of cameras totally work and just for some reason those cameras all broke that day of the shooting.

    • Dog – wait what? Are you telling me that there are lapses in coverage of the video systems, broken or inoperative or maybe even intentionally turned off? Surely you jest – oh wait, any bets they are from the same company that built the ones in Epstein’s cell…..

  19. Yet, they still can’t allow the easiest deterrent, good people carrying concealed.
    That’s the only “common sense” gun control that will do any good.

  20. “Person with gun” does not necessarily equate to “bad.”

    It all depends on why they have it, and what (if anything) they intend to do with it.

    None of which can be evaluated effectively by any kind of remote sensing system.

    Useless and ineffective, in addutiin yo being (probably) unconstitutional.

    • Do you want an honest answer? Because the use of this technology in the schools Would reveal, that most of the kids with weapons are not white.
      Don’t ask a question that you really don’t want the answer to. I’m Not trying to be mean. It’s just the answer you get may be the answer that causes you to vomit.

  21. UUUUM $10 FAIR VS A HUMAN LIFE .
    JUST WHEN THOUGHT TAX PAYESR HAD IT COVERED .
    N PERSON ~ OFFICER HAD A JOB .
    OK POST A SIGN PLEASE EVERY ONE CARRY YOUR FIRE ARM IF HAVE ONE WITH YA ON THE SUBWAY . OR BRASS NUCKLES , OR KITCHN KNIFE , OR BASEBALL BAT ,OR OR YEA MORE PEPPER SPRAY , OR BALL PENG HAMMER DWN DUDE , OR SWITCH BLADE ,
    OR 1/2″ 4~6 FOOT CHAIN , OR OR OR OR OR TUN IN NXT WEEK , SUBWAY GO ERS GO IN WOLF PACK STRAGY … UUUUH

  22. These remote sensors work on what? a lump under clothing? Mass X-ray? Magnetic detection?
    Any of these can be easily defeated by someone with a little thought.

    • old – or even a square or two of aluminum foil or something similar. I’d bet a Faraday cage would work as well 😉

  23. Anyone that deploys these machines should charged, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in solitary for the production, possession, and distribution of child pornography.

  24. “There are so may illegally carried firearms on the subway that we can’t actually afford to confront it BUT we will still make sure law-abiding citizens can’t carry a gun for defense. Or, if we have our way, body armor.”

  25. So they want these scanners to find more “people of color” illegally carrying so they can then let them go with a slap on the wrist? And that will help things how?

    It would seem that the only concrete result will be more home burglaries by now gat-less criminal looking to get a replacement gat.

  26. I kinda like the idea. Couple it with a requirement to carry a firearm, or you’re denied entry to the subway.

    Or, maybe, gun carriers ride free?

  27. Whether such a system would make an impact is a matter of debate. I will at least grudgingly give the Mayor credit for thinking outside the box, beyond the predictable trifecta of “Guns, Guns, Guns.”

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