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NYPD ‘robocop’ no longer patrolling following end of pilot program

The 400-pound robot was meant to be a deterrent to subway crime; two human officers had to guard it at all times to keep it from being vandalized

NYPD subway surveillance robot in storage for two months despite active contract

“We are reviewing options for the K5’s next deployment as part of the pilot,” Lutvak said.

Business Wire

By Chris Sommerfeldt
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — The NYPD’s futuristic subway surveillance robot — which Mayor Adams hailed as a “good investment” when it was first deployed last year — has been sitting in storage for the past two months despite the city holding an active contract on the high-tech public safety gadget, according to city officials.

The 400-pound K5 robot, developed by security contractor Knightscope, was first rolled out in early October to patrol the Times Square subway station for two months, using four cameras to scan its surroundings. City officials said at the time that the robot would serve as a deterrent to crime and also provide the NYPD with real-time surveillance data.

The two-month pilot ended in early December. Since then, K5 has been in storage — even though the city’s paying Knightscope for a six-month contract on the robot, Adams spokesman Charles Lutvak confirmed to the Daily News on Friday.

Lutvak didn’t say why K5 was not redeployed to a different location after the two-month test run lapsed. He did say Adams’ administration is still considering deploying it in another location during the remaining two months of the contract.

“We are reviewing options for the K5’s next deployment as part of the pilot,” Lutvak said.

Lutvak wouldn’t say how much the city has paid for K5. In April 2023, when the administration first revealed it was in negotiations about putting K5 on patrol, officials said a seven-month contract for the robot would cost the city about $12,250.

According to the New York Times, which first reported Friday that the robot’s no longer in use, K5 is sitting in a storage room inside the Times Square subway station, visible through a plate glass window.

During its run, K5 had to be accompanied by two officers at all times. In a Sept. 22 press conference, Adams suggested the NYPD needed to do so to make sure no one would vandalize the robot, but vowed the pairing with officers would stop once the pilot ended.

“These are not officers that’s going to be there, be with the robot forever,” Adams said at the time. “It’s during the pilot, we want them there. Once the pilot is done after the period of the officers, now we no longer need the officers.”

Noting the robot only cost $9 per hour to deploy, Adams added: “This is a good investment in taxpayers’ dollars.”

Lutvak said that as of Friday it was not clear whether the NYPD will make K5 a permanent part of its deployment force once the six-month contract is up.

A rep for Knightscope could not be reached for comment.

The initial deployment of K5 raised a lot of hackles from legal watchdogs, who questioned the utility of the robot and argued it would subject New Yorkers to dystopian levels of surveillance.

The Legal Aid Society called last year on the Department of Investigation to also probe whether the NYPD’s K5 rollout violated the POST Act, which requires the Police Department to offer a public comment period on any new surveillance technology pre-deployment.

Shane Ferro, a staff attorney with Legal Aid’s digital forensics unit, said the fact that K5 has been kept in storage despite its active contract underscores that it was “a gimmick” from the get-go.

“This was never a serious technology meant to solve a problem,” Ferro said. “The NYPD was never able to give any details on what exactly it could do that surveillance cameras in Times Square weren’t already doing. It was just a toy that the mayor was able to do a photo-op with, and it didn’t make any of us safer; it just made us more surveilled.”


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