Students divided over installing metal detectors in subways

New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently said he is considering adding metal detectors in city subway stations to curb the uptick in crime.

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Manasa Gudavalli

Mayor Eric Adams said he’s considering adding metal detectors to the New York City subway stations following the mass shooting on the Manhattan-bound N train in Sunset Park. (Staff Photo by Manasa Gudavalli)

Kayla Hardersen, Senior Staff Writer

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he is considering installing one of three types of metal detectors to subway stations after a mass shooting took place in a Brooklyn subway car in early April. NYU students are unsure whether the addition of metal detectors in stations will practically decrease crime in the transit system.

“Once you go through with a gun, what’s going to happen?” GLS first-year Katerina Koopman said. “Are there going to be police at every subway? How would you enforce that other than just being like, ‘Oh, that guy has a gun.’”

Other students said they support installing metal detectors as a precaution to increase subway safety. CAS sophomore Natanya Williams suggested that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority install the metal detectors in a few stations as a test-run to observe their effectiveness.

“I would support a prototype of it because you never know unless you try,” Williams said. “But it’s trying to put a bandaid on a bigger problem because a lot of crime comes from post-pandemic life and people are suffering from mental health issues. They’re struggling financially because life has changed so drastically.”

Tisch junior Diamond Destiny hopes that metal detectors can provide more safety to subway riders, but she understands why metal detectors cannot fix the entire issue.

“Wrong can happen at any moment,” Destiny said. “It would be great if they could detect a weapon, but nowadays anything could be used as a weapon if you’re ambitious enough.”

One of the metal detectors that Adams is contemplating adding was created by the security company Evolv, which has developed a weapons detection system. The company’s CEO, Peter George, said the system does not serve as a metal detector. He said that Evolv’s technology  would have identified the gun on Frank James, the suspect of the Brooklyn shooting.

The Evolv detector uses an artificial intelligence system, which is capable of determining the density and size of an object. It alerts personnel if it detects weapons, including guns and bombs, when an individual walks through the system. However, during a school board meeting in Illinois, an Evolv sales manager admitted that the system was prone to false alarms, particularly for metal glasses cases and umbrellas.

Sarah Kaufman, the associate director of the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, said there are alternative methods to make subways safer. She recommends investing in infrastructure to increase light for accessibility and safety, as well as implementing an app-based incident reporting system.

“Metal detectors can present several possible choke points,” Kaufman wrote to WSN. “The machines themselves, which can produce false positives such as if a commuter is carrying a laptop or response needed to metal detectors being set off. Overall, installing metal detectors sets off issues of efficiency of travel and privacy concerns of riders.”

In February, Adams released a subway safety plan to remove houseless people from taking shelter in the subway and to deploy outreach teams to canvass stations for mental health incidents. He also stationed nearly 1,000 additional police officers in stations in January. 

Other students said they want the subways to be safer, but criticized the increased police presence that would come with installing the system. Stern first-year Meha Patel said that having a police presence in subways is ineffective given how crime has not decreased since the start of Adams’ plan. 

“I hope they figure out a way that makes people feel safe going into the subway so you’re not completely on edge, but so it’s not disrupting your routine,” Patel said.

Contact Kayla Hardersen at [email protected]