Right after the Sunset Park shooting, WCBS asked Eric Adams about the possibility of putting metal detectors at subway entrances. “People just need to feel safe,” the anchor said, and Adams responded that his deputy mayor of public safety is searching “the entire country and globe to find ways that we could identify guns.” People quickly pointed out that installing metal detectors in the subways is an absurd proposal — imagine an airport security line but, somehow, vastly worse? Every day? For 4 million or so riders? — and in response, the mayor’s communication director clarified that Adams was “of course” not talking about airport-style detectors but was instead talking about using “innovative technology.”
On Wednesday, Adams once again brought up metal detectors in similarly vague terms. “Oftentimes when people hear of metal detectors, they immediately think of the airport model,” Adams said. “Those are not the only models that are available. There are new models that are being used at ball games, ball parks, hospitals where you’re not stopping to go through your belongings. You’re simply walking through.” He said he would bring up the idea with the MTA, which is a state-run agency. On Morning Joe, MTA chairman Janno Lieber said the agency was looking at the “forefront of technology,” but wouldn’t create an “impractical environment.” (The mayor’s press office did not reply to our request for more information by time of publication.)
Without more detail, it’s hard to guess exactly what the mayor is talking about. (He likes to talk about tech and innovation a lot.) But what we do know is that the city is currently piloting a program at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx to use a detection system made by a Massachusetts company called Evolv Technology. As the Gotham Gazette reported in March, the device screens people without requiring that they stop or empty their pockets. (A City Hall spokesperson said it’s also being used at Lincoln Center, Citi Field, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.) Evolv claims “Fast, Efficient Threat Screening,” saying that it can screen 3,600 people per hour, ten times faster than metal detectors, using advanced sensors and artificial intelligence. Adams has touted these types of systems in press conferences and said that he eventually wants to roll them out in schools.
Civil-rights experts pointed out to Gotham Gazette that there isn’t enough independent research yet to back up Evolv’s claims about its machine’s effectiveness. (A common issue in schools seems to be that the detectors keep accidentally picking up Chromebooks.) And they brought up the immense privacy invasion of scanning kids at school. “It might be a little bit less obvious than metal detectors, and people will move through it more quickly. But the technology is no less invasive,” Daniel Schwarz, NYCLU’s privacy and tech strategist, told Gotham Gazette.
So what we know for sure: The mayor keeps talking about something that he says is like a metal detector, but not a metal detector. It’s “technology” and “innovation.”