NYPD testing concealed gun-detecting cameras

The NYPD is testing a new camera system that can see if a person is carrying a concealed gun. The department said it’s the newest way to tell if someone is carrying an “illegal gun.”

By scanning a person’s naturally-emitted radiation, it’s possible to see if something is blocking that radiation (presumably using infrared sensors); it shows up as black on a green body.

“If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example, a weapon, the device will highlight that object. These images are from a recent test we conducted with an officer carrying a hidden handgun. You get a sense of why we’re so hopeful about this tool,” said police commissioner Ray Kelly at an address covering the new scanner.

This technology is being rolled out along side the New York stop-and-frisk program, although the NYPD is still considering how best to use it, and is working with legal advisers to keep things above-board. The stop-and-frisk program is already pretty controversial and civil rights organizations are suspicious about it.

“There’s a lot of unknowns here, a lot of unanswered questions,” said Darius Charney of the Center for Constitutional Rights to WABC-TV. “Is it going to be a better alternative to aggressive Stop and Frisk or is it going to turn into another civil rights or civil liberties disaster?”

“I can’t say I’m dead set against it, but me and others in the police accountability business are concerned,” Charney added.

The detector, a machine about the size of a TV camera, is bulky but still fairly portable. It can be used from the back of a truck, and will not be mounted on street poles, at least not for now. Because it must be targeted, organizations like the Center for Constitutional Rights are concerned that it could easily be abused.

Because of the nature of the technology, it is susceptible to false alarms. Keys, phones, or anything else under clothes or in pockets is capable of causing false alarms.

A similar technology has been in place in London for some time now; in fact, the NYPD worked with English law enforcement to develop a domestic version of the surveillance system.

Although it is being tested now, the camera has been in development for about a year and is not a response to the current political climate. Kelly said they hope to have it on the streets later this year.

New York residents with concealed-carry permits don’t have to inform the police that they’re carrying, although they do have to provide their permit to any law enforcement officer if requested (.pdf).

Do you think this is a good way to preempt gun violence, or do you see this as an invasion of privacy?

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