• More Surveillance Under Guise Of Safety: NYC Subway Weapons Detectors By July

    March 29, 2024
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    Metal detectors to be used in NYC subway system (YouTube screencap).

    Mayor Eric Adams announced a plan to install weapon detection systems in the New York City subway system.

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    In keeping with the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology (POST) Act, the NYPD must first publish an impact statement describing the effect of any suggested technological implementation. The act also stipulates a 90-day waiting period before any such changes can be made. Thusly, in early July, barring any legal or practical obstacles, expect to see scanning equipment in the subways.

    This intrusion on the liberties of New Yorkers comes on the heels of the new congestion pricing license plate scanners covered by TheManhattan in February. Call it a coincidence, but between the two systems, citizens above and below ground are now more scrutinized than ever. To add insult to injury, taxpayers foot the bill for these invasive systems (not to mention traffic congestion fines).

    How Bad Is Subway Crime?

    Addressing crime on the subway is certainly a politically motivated move with elections looming. Furthermore, subterranean crime has increased dramatically, up 53% year over year.

    We have already seen Gov. Hochul step into the fray with her plan to place 1,000 law enforcement officers into the subway system. While such moves are politically expedient, they may be more about increasing the perception of safety versus the reality of the situation. Bag checks do nothing to stop a criminal from concealing a weapon on his person.

    So is scanning technology a reasonable answer, or more political noise?

    A Short, Sharp Shove

    While this scanning initiative might seem logical to an outsider, any straphanger will tell you that the vast majority of subway crimes don't require a weapon. Yes, two recent shootings were well publicized, but the number of gun-related crime is paltry compared to incidents of riders being shoved onto subway tracks. Further, many slashings are carried out with box cutters or similar instruments with small blades.

    At the end of the day, all a criminal needs is a pair of hands and an oncoming train.

    Far more promising than scanning equipment: the MTA is testing new fare gates to stop turnstile jumpers, and researching metal platform barriers (similar to those in the London tube) to stop riders from falling (or being shoved onto) the tracks.

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