NYPD goes high tech; deploys ‘snitchBOT’ in war on subway thugs

New York City continued its march away from the tried and true methods of policing Tuesday when Mayor Eric Adams (D) announced the return to a previously abandoned pilot program featuring “Digi-dogs” and a “snitchBOT.”

(Video: PIX11)

“We cannot be afraid of [the technology],” Hizzoner said at a Times Square press conference where the technology was demonstrated by members of the New York Police Department. Expected to begin a six-month trial run in June or July alongside a human partner, the K5 Autonomous Security Robot produced by Knightscope boasted an array of surveillance technology.

According to The New York Post, the robot, described by Adams as like a “Roomba” and nicknamed “snitchBOT,” boasts over a dozen microphones, sonar and lidar sensors, a license plate reader and a 360-degree camera integrated into its 400 pound body. At a cost of $12,250 for the subscription service, the robot with a max speed of 3 mph will monitor the tourist hub and the subway station below to test out its effectiveness.

However, more controversy surrounded the comeback of the “Digi-dogs” that had previously been met with public outcry during former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tenure.

“If we were not willing to move forward and use technology to properly keep cities safe, then we will not keep up with those who are doing harmful things to hurt New York,” Adams said.

“A few loud people were opposed to [them previously], and we just took a step back. That is not how I operate or look at what’s best for the city,” he went on.

Previously, the technology developed by Boston Dynamic had been met with pushback from those concerned about over-policing and misuse of funds that could have otherwise been allocated toward low-income communities or schools.

Expected to cost nearly $750,000 for the pair of robotic “dogs,” the NYPD made clear that the new tools expected to be used in hostage situations or to investigate bomb threats would not take a dime from the police force budget but rather would be paid for using forfeiture money seized from crimes.

“To safeguard our modern city and a forward-looking world, it is essential that our officers are equipped with the tools, training, and technology necessary to do that job safely and effectively. In the case of the NYPD, this has been true for nearly two centuries,” NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell expressed.

Comparing the addition to the embrace of other technologies like bikes, motorcycles or drones, she added, “We have maximized public and officer safety through emerging technology, and that approach continues today. But we know that technology is just a tool, and it only as effective as the person or people using it.”

The NYPD also previewed the StarChase GPS device that would allow officers to affix a tracker to a vehicle via a handheld or car-mounted firing system thus allowing law enforcement to avoid dangerous chases. The seven trackers plus a one-year subscription to the GPS service will cost shy of $20,000.

Aside from concerns about robots potentially taking the jobs of officers, one cop warned the Post that “The robots will be sitting ducks.”

“Never mind getting graffitied, people will try to destroy them,” the cops said and joked, “If someone is able to destroy them and gets arrested, will they be charged with assaulting a police officer or will it be a property crime?”


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Kevin Haggerty


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