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Internal emails reveal controversial gun-detection AI system’s path to NYC

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In Short:

In February 2022, NYC mayor Eric Adams’ team met with gun-detection company Evolv to discuss using their technology in places like Times Square and schools. Despite Evolv’s technology being less accurate in hospitals, Mayor Adams announced plans to test it in subway stations. Critics question the effectiveness of Evolv’s software, which has missed weapons before, and the company is under investigation by the SEC.


Meeting Between NYC Mayor’s Team and Evolv

In February 2022, a meeting was arranged between New York City mayor Eric Adams’ team and an artificial intelligence gun-detection company called Evolv. The company’s representatives presented a brochure listing potential partnership opportunities in various locations like the Port Authority Bus Terminal, NYC schools, hospitals, and Times Square. Notably missing from the list was the subway system in NYC.

After an in-person meeting, Evolv co-founder Anil Chitkara attempted to sell the company’s technology by highlighting past success with entities like Walt Disney World.

In an email to the Mayor’s Office dated February 7, Chitkara mentioned their work with Disney World and suggested potential parallels in enhancing security.

Evolv’s Technology in Bronx Hospital

Following the shooting incident at a city-run Bronx hospital, Evolv’s technology was used to screen visitors. However, the effectiveness was not satisfactory, with scanners yielding false positives 85% of the time during a seven-month pilot phase.

Plan to Test Gun-Detection Scanners in NYC Subways

Despite earlier indications that the technology was not suitable for subway stations, Mayor Adams announced plans to test Evolv’s gun-detection scanners following a tragic incident in the subway. This decision was likened to a “Sputnik moment” by Adams.

Controversies Surrounding Evolv

Evolv has faced criticism and skepticism regarding the effectiveness of its technology, especially in detecting weapons accurately. The company’s software, which uses electromagnetic fields and sensors, has been reported to miss weapons multiple times. Additionally, regulatory bodies like the US Securities and Exchange Commission have initiated investigations into the company.

Background of Key Figures

Deputy Mayor Philip Banks III was tasked by Mayor Adams in 2022 to find a gun-detection solution. Banks, a former NYPD chief of department, had previously resigned in 2014 amidst a federal investigation.

While Mayor Adams claimed to have found Evolv online, the company states that the NYPD had contacted them to explore the possibility of using their technology as part of efforts to address violent crime in the city.

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