NEW YORK ( Associated Press) — After a mass shooting on a New York City subway train, Meyer devised a high-tech idea: deploy scanners that can get into transit systems before anyone can take a gun. This.
The technology exists to quickly scan large numbers of people for weapons, and is now used to screen people in places such as sports stadiums and theme parks.
But security experts say it would be difficult, if not impossible, to install such a system in the city’s vast, porous metro system in a way that would make a difference.
The problem will not necessarily be technology – but rather the reality that scanners with human operators are needed to counteract people carrying firearms illegally.
“Logically, it would be a nightmare. You would have to tie up a lot of officers doing that,” 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 that it’s logically impossible to have someone at every entrance to every station.”
Former police captain, Mayor Eric Adams, has acknowledged the challenges, but said the system may still be worth trying as a deterrent in select locations.
“We want to be able to just pop up at a station so people don’t know it’s there,” the Democrat said, “what we do when we do a car checkpoint.”
Improved subway security was renewed in April after a gunman set off smoke bombs and sprayed the subway compartment with shots, injuring 10 people.
Then, on May 22, another gunman killed a passenger in what officials said appeared to be a random attack.
The day after that murder, Adams again expressed interest in the weapon-screening technique. And soon, the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas sparked debate over how to address gun violence.
In the New York City subway, screening will not be the same as at airport checkpoints, a shaky solution for a system with 472 stations, all with multiple entrances. Instead, Adams referred to a technology that uses sensors to detect metal, but can also determine the shape of an object, such as a gun, while people pass unhindered.
Boston-area company Evolve uses the technology at Pro Sports Stadium in Atlanta and Nashville, the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and, in a recent trial, New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, although none in mass transit no system
According to the company, screeners can scan 3,600 people per hour. However, they can also generate false positives from items such as Chromebooks.
In an email, Evolve’s chief marketing officer, Dana Loof, said false positives are “an order of magnitude lower” than traditional metal detectors, but acknowledged that transit systems will present unique challenges.
“Any technology is only one piece of the solution that includes the security professionals, the operational environment, and the protocols they follow,” Loof said.
Los Angeles Metro spokesman Dave Sotero said similar screening devices made by England-based defense technology company QinetiQ were part of a pilot program in the Los Angeles mass transit system in 2018 and are currently used when danger levels are high. it happens. The machines scan the waves at passers-by from afar.
Identifying someone with a weapon is only half the challenge.
“It’s also manpower,” said Donnell Harwin, a senior policy researcher at RAND Corp. and former security chief of the Washington, D.C., government.
Adams has not publicly discussed how much the machines and their operation might cost in New York City, but Harwin acknowledged that the price could be much higher.
“If you have a determined attacker, you won’t just have a security guard; you have to have a police officer,” Harvin said. “It’s tough. You can toughen every station, but who would want to pay the $10 fare? Because the cost is going to be passed on to the rider.”
Still, because you can’t police every car and every station, Harvin said, “you have to invest in some technology.”
“It’s very complicated, but people have to come together and talk about it, because what’s being done now isn’t cutting it.”
Violent attacks in New York City’s subway system are relatively rare compared to above ground crime. And overall the city is one of the safest big cities in the country.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on people’s sense of security, as have a string of high-profile crimes, including fatally pushing a woman in front of a train by a man, to be later put on trial. decided to get sick. 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 comparable to the years before the pandemic, but public perception has been that there is new unrest underground.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been successful in getting 1,000 more police officers assigned to the system, but its president, Jano Lieber, was clear last week when asked about the current environment.
“This week is a terrible week,” he said, referring to the May 22 shooting. “This week I can’t say to any New York City subway rider, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ because what happened is a terrifying nightmare.”
Experts said any practical security upgrade would have to involve a combination of measures.
Dooley envisioned a limited rollout of officers using handheld metal detectors at high-traffic stations, but acknowledged that it would cover only a fraction of the system’s vast area and would address civil liberties complaints, including the potential for racial profiling. can give birth.
Police officers already check people’s bags at some subway entrances, but those checks are so few that most people ride for years without being discovered.
Dorothy Moses Schultz, a retired police captain on the MTA’s MetroNorth Rail System and a professor emerita in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, suggested more police in subways and a continued commitment to addressing homelessness “help send a message.” We’re trying to make it a systematic system that can bring people back.”
“If more people think 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 was open to new approaches.
“We are serious about exploring each and every one of these technologies,” he said. “I think we’ll get there, but it’s a question of timing and technology development.”