January 24, 2013

NYPD Testing New Radiation Sensor Technology to Spot Concealed Weapons


It's not exactly saying anything new to note that New York, especially New York City, has a bit of a gun violence problem. That's a problem that the New York Police Department is looking to fix with a set of new radiation scanners that they unveiled earlier this week, but have already been met with a small amount of controversy.

The radiation scanners in question are small enough that they can be put in police vans, or on particularly troublesome street corners, and allow police to spot carriers of weapons without having to get in close enough to do a pat-down. It was part of a development project undertaken by the London Metropolitan Police, and is geared toward receiving the terahertz radiation that humans and certain inanimate objects emit as part of normal everyday existence. When something blocks that radiation, like a gun, it would appear on the scans as looking somewhat like a gun-shaped black blob.

Naturally, this is raising a note of controversy, and already Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has been talking to the city's legal staff about the use of these scanners. Some civil rights groups call it a "virtual pat-down" staged on everybody regardless of guilt or innocence, and Fourth Amendment issues are also rearing their heads in the use of such technology. After all, say some, people have a right to walk down the street, past a police van or even through a particularly violent street corner without having their radiation output examined against their will.


Image via Shutterstock

Commissioner Kelly, for his part, insists that the NYPD will use their new technology with the utmost responsibility, but he's using the new technology against a particularly friendly backdrop for his plans. There's much more debate than ever these days about gun control following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and both school shootings and random shootings in general are taking up a lot more time in the media of late. New York also recently passed several key laws related to gun control, with new measures in place regarding the purchase of high-capacity ammo magazines.

The gun control debate is one that's not likely to go away soon. Each side has sound points to which it can cling in an argument; proponents want to prevent tragedies that take innocent lives--worse yet the lives of innocent children--while opponents acknowledge that's a noble goal, but wonder why their right to own, carry, and operate firearms must suffer for the actions of a comparatively miniscule portion of gun owners, and why no similar measures are taken for alcohol addicts, vehicular manslaughter perpetrators, or medical malpractice. Issues of self-defense, historical precedent, and even the sheer founding of the United States itself come into play as well.

Whether New York will be permitted to obtain and operate its scanners is as yet unclear--Commissioner Kelly hopes to have them operating by the end of this year--but it certainly won't go into place, if it goes in at all, without a fight on both sides.

 




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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