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NYPD Purchases Expensive AI Metal Detectors That May or May Not Actually Work

In its latest effort to waste taxpayer funds that could be spent fixing the famously-broken Metropolitan Transit Authority subway system, the New York Police Department has decided to buy AI metal detectors made by a company that's currently under federal investigation.

As Gothamist reports, New York's easily-impressed mayor, Eric Adams, declared the pricey AI-enabled metal detectors made by the Michigan company Evolv are a massive upgrade.

"This is our Sputnik moment," Adams enthused during a press conference at the Fulton Transit Center, a massive downtown subway stop located steps away from the mall that lives on three floors of the rebuilt World Trade Center.

As prior reports about Evolv's metal detectors indicate, the company claims to use some sort of secret-sauce AI to identify hidden weapons — though as a BBC investigation in 2022 about the company's products revealed, there are questions about whether it actually works.

"Like when Kennedy said we’re going to put a man on the Moon," the mayor continued as hungry commuters no doubt milled above him at the subway station's top-floor Shake Shack. "Let’s bring on the scanners."

If there's one thing New York knows how to do, it's spending gobs of money on a bunch of bull nobody needs or asked for — and in the case of the Evolv scanners, the city's denizens will likely be footing a substantial bill.

As the New York Focus reported back in 2022, the "AI-enabled" scanners cost between $2,000 and $3,000 per month to operate per unit, a range that would constitute a "good price" for a studio apartment in most parts of the Big Apple. Because Evolv generally requires a four-year contract, that would bring the total up to $120,000 to rent the equipment out, and that's just for one of the company's thingamajigs.

And speaking of those wares — Evolv is, as Gothamist mentions, under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for alleged false advertising after the aforementioned BBC report found that its scanners aren't nearly as "intelligent" as the company claims.

Evolv has since updated its language in its UK advertising. But for some reason, Adams still insisted on contracting with the company amid an apparent spate of violence in the subway system that's prompted increased surveillance, albeit with very little actual deterrence.

Just days after New York's Gov. Kathy Hochul announced earlier this month that she would be activating the state's National Guard to patrol the subway system in tandem with the NYPD's large-and-growing force of fare evasion cops to address the rash of violence in the MTA, a man was stabbed and shot with his own gun in a packed subway car. Notably, police didn't arrive on the scene for several subway stops as the in-car chaos ensued — and only apprehended the people involved in a station that happens to have an NYPD office inside it.

As the fallout from that debacle continues, there's no doubt that the city and its police force want to look like they're doing something to address the understandable panic experienced by straphangers in the wake of such high-profile violent incidents. But given how the NYPD's recent forays into Big Tech expenditures have gone, there's reason to believe that this one might be a sad fart.

More on NYPD tech: NYC Beaches Deploying Drones to Drop Flotation Devices for Drowning Swimmers