NYPD unveils robot police dogs and other high-tech crime-fighting devices in Times Square

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Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Mayor Adams and NYPD roll out high-tech crimefighting tools
New York City officials gathered in Times Square Tuesday morning to roll out a new initiative in the ongoing war on crime.

NEW YORK -- They say every dog has his day -- and today may be Digidog's.

The New York City Police Department and Mayor Eric Adams reintroduced the robotic police dog Tuesday after it was dismissed by the previous administration, and they rolled out two newer public safety technologies as well.

Digidog, the $74,000 robot made by Boston Dynamics and previewed exclusively by WABC-TV in December 2020, fell victim to calls by civil rights advocates to cut police department funding.

Digidog first appeared in 2021 when the NYPD touted its ability to use its cameras, lights and communication system to help police in dangerous situations. Critics believed it emblematic of aggressive policing.

"A few loud people were opposed to it and we took a step back. That is not how I operate," Adams said during a news conference. "We are scanning the globe to find technology that will assure this city is safe."

Protesters fear a robot dog donated to LA will kill and spy on Black and Brown people

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said the robotic canine is part of the NYPD's history of leveraging technology to "safeguard a modern city," noting New York was among the first cities to take fingerprints and mug shots and to adopt a 911 emergency call system.

"The use of these technologies will be transparent, consistent and always done in collaboration with the people that we serve," Sewell said.

Sewell said the department will pilot two other technologies: the K5 Autonomous Security Robot and the StarChase GPS system.

The NYPD is leasing the new Robocop, which is equipped with multiple cameras and sensors, to patrol Times Square and the Times Square subway station this summer, Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said.

"This K5 robot provides real time situational awareness and actionable intelligence to first responders and also provides a physical crime deterrence," Maddrey said.

The StarChase system operates by attaching a GPS tag, either by a hand-held or vehicle-mounted launcher, onto a fleeing vehicle. The system then tracks the vehicle via a web-based app, and it provides real-time information about the vehicle's location.

This technology will allow NYPD officers to track a tagged vehicle remotely, avoiding a high-risk vehicle pursuit in crowded streets, Sewell said.

"We want the public to know that the use of these technologies will be transparent, consistent, and always done in collaboration with the people that we serve," said Sewell. "And as with every NYPD initiative, we will continuously evaluate their use and impact on our city. Our job is to fight crime and keep people safe. And these tools are significant steps forward in that vital mission."

Last month, the Los Angeles City Council postponed a decision on whether to accept a donation of a robot dog after protesters voiced their opposition to the move.

Demonstrators at a City Council meeting on March 7 said the robot dog could possibly be used to spy on people in Black and Brown communities.

The LAPD said the robot would only be used by the SWAT team for surveillance and would not be equipped with weapons or be used for spying.