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Transcript: Mayor Adams Makes Public Safety-Related Announcement

September 22, 2023

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Justin Meyers, Chief of Operations, Office of Public Safety: Good morning. I'm joined here today by Mayor Eric Adams; NYPD Chief of Transit Michael Kemper; members of the NYPD's Tactical Response Assistant Unit, including Commanding Officer Frank DiGiacomo; MTA President of New York City Transit, Richard Davey; Assistant Commissioner of the NYPD, Kaz Daughtry; and TJ Witham from the Times Square Alliance. 

There's a question we ask ourselves every day in public safety: how do we continue to keep people safe in our changing society where criminals are getting more sophisticated? The answer is by leveraging existing technology in innovative ways, using the tools that are available to us to stay one step ahead of criminals. 

Not only does this technology help us do our jobs better, but it makes the city more efficient. Technology allows us to do more with less, and it's the future of public safety here in New York City. With that, I'd like to turn it over to Mayor Adams who's been the leader of the city's ongoing efforts to harness the power of technology for greater good. 

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thank you so much, Justin. And I think that one of the concerning things for me is when Deputy Mayor Banks gave me analysis of the population of men and women in law enforcement— and really, in criminal justice— how those numbers are decreasing substantially across the country. And what we must do is look at existing technology and see how do we continue to be innovative in its use. 

And I think that's what we're doing today. You're going to hear me say it over and over again, public safety and justice are the prerequisite to our prosperity, particularly in our subway system. When people feel unsafe to use our trains and buses, it impacts our economic stability as well; and so, we must use every available method to continue to see our city be the safest big city in America. 

And that's what we're doing. We're taking existing technology, cameras being able to communicate with people, and we're placing it on wheels and ensuring that it could be use 24 hours, seven days a week if needed, but it will be there for proper use all the time. 

Recently, we used a tethered drone on Randall's Island to provide real time information that helped disperse a concert crowd safely at Randall's Island. It was a very successful initiative, and it saved thousands of dollars in manpower. We cannot tell you how properly using technology saved money. We're saying it over and over again in the deployment of manpower, being able to a view from the ground or in the air really allows the proper deployment of manpower and police resources. I'm seeing it every day at these different scenes of emergencies: when you are able to use this technology properly, you could properly deploy your personnel. 

Today we're launching a pilot program to test the Knightscope K5 Security Robot. The NYPD must be on the forefront of technology and be two steps ahead of those utilizing technology to hurt New Yorkers— and trust me, they are. Don't think we're the only ones that are being innovative, bad guys are being innovative all the time. That is part of the GLA problem we're having, they're using technology to steal cars and they're staying ahead of other agencies. They won't stay ahead of us. 

Devices like the K5 have the possibility to serve as a deterrent to crime or at least learn best practices while using technology going forward. Here's what New Yorkers can expect from this new mindset that I have of by using preexisting technology, and this is what you could expect with this mindset that we are going to have. 

The K5 will operate between midnight and six a.m. at the Times Square Subway Station for two months. With the duration of the trial, it will be accompanied by a police officer at all times, and for the first two weeks, it will be trained to map out the station, will move around the main station area and not on the platform. We want to be clear on that. 

It will record video that can be viewed in case of an emergency or a crime. It will not record audio, and it will not use facial recognition. However, the K5 does have a button that connects you immediately to a live person that New Yorkers can utilize 24/7 with questions, concerns or to report an incident if needed. At the end of the two months, we'll assess the robot's effectiveness and decide whether and how we'll continue to use it moving forward. 

New Yorkers have strong opinions on technology. I like to say 8.3 million New Yorkers, 35 million opinions, so you're going to hear them all, but they are going to feel the presence of technology that will continue to keep them safe. And while I believe it is our duty to utilize state of the art technology advancements to help keep New Yorkers safe, I believe we must do it wisely and not intrusively. 

We're committed to exploring innovative tools to continue to make this city the safest big city in America, and this robot K5, it has the potential to serve as an important tool in our toolbox. It is only by constantly adapting, testing and innovating will continue to stay ahead of those who want to harm everyday New Yorkers. It is our goal to look at these preexisting forms of technology and allow them to continue to keep New Yorkers safe in a very real way in real time. 

So again, I want to thank the entire MTA team for really partnering with us to make sure that we can effectively deploy this new robot we have here to be part of our overall advancement in keeping our subway riders safe. I've gone a long way from being a transit cop to being next to a robot. We're going to keep us safe no matter which way we do it. Thank you. 

Meyers: Now I'd like to introduce Chief of NYPD Transit, Michael Kemper. 

Chief Michael Kemper, Transit, Police Department: Good morning, President Davey; Andrew Albert who's with us, he's the chair of the New York City Transit Riders Council, he's also a sitting member of the MTA Board; and, to everyone. And thank you for being here, and welcome to the station that sits below the crosswords of the world and perhaps the busiest train station attached to the largest subway system in the nation. 

Let me say this. Mayor Adams and his administration have been crystal clear and vocal focus since day one: public safety was going to be and is his top priority. And when it comes to public safety there's no one that does it better in the world than the NYPD. 

Tried and true methods of subway policing, deploying cops to turnstiles on platforms and mezzanine areas and even inside moving trains has been the cornerstone of our crime deployment and crime reduction strategy, and this administration's investments and support and through long hours and hard work by the men and women in the NYPD, overall crime in the subway system is down this year versus last year and it's near historic lows. 

This year alone, subway crime is down 4.5 percent versus last year; matter of fact, overall crime in the subway system is down when comparing pre pandemic years. For example, crime is down 8.1 percent versus 2019; crime is down 8.9 percent versus 2018; and when taking out the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021— for obvious reasons— only two years in recorded history have lower overall crime numbers in the subway system versus calendar year 2023. 

Today we take that notion of tried and true policing, of assigning a transit cop to their post, and we bring that to a different level. Under the leadership of Mayor Adams and Commission Caban, the NYPD continues to take strides to explore innovative approaches to 21st century policing. 

Several months ago, we introduced to the world the idea of a robot that would in essence patrol the subway station. It's fitting that we are near the theater district, because today K5 is taking center stage: welcome to New York City, K5 and welcome to the NYPD. 

K5 is a robot that uses technology already in existence. We are taking an expensive camera network in the subway system and adding to it— supplementing to it, if you will— and adding a series of cameras that not only moves but a device that can connect subway riders to immediate assistance if the need arises. 

We understand the K5 robot will generate some buzz and curiosity. Let me be crystal clear and dispel any rumors or concerns about this robot: it will not employ facial recognition technology, and any video collected will adhere to the same guidelines as that any other technology in the NYPD's current toolbox. 

We welcome K5 is the latest tool in support of the NYPD's core mission, and that's to keep New York City's residents and our subway riders safe. We thank all our partners and stakeholders, again, including President Davey and his team at the MTA; and of course, to Mayor Adams, whose vision and embrace of innovation proudly comes to fruition today with the display and use of K5. Thank you. 

Meyers: Thank you, Chief Kemper. None of this would be possible without outstanding partners in the MTA. We work as one team in this city toward our common goal of keeping people in the subway system safe. And the numbers that Chief Kemper just shared I think clearly underscore how much work has been done over the last year and a half and how successful this team has been. I want to thank the MTA for their assistance with this pilot program and turn it over now to New York City Transit President Richard Davey. 

Richard Davey, President, New York City Transit: Thank you. Appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you so much. Let me share some more numbers, if I can, which would be I think some news making today. Yesterday we had another record breaking number of ridership in the subway system. So, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week, mayor, over four million New Yorkers came back and used our system. 

I'm going to steal a line from you. You often say the city isn't on its way back, it is back— and I agree. I think we're seeing that from our customers, so this will very likely be the highest ridership week we've had since the pandemic over three years ago. 

Why? Because we've been focused on faster service, cleaner service and safer service. Thanks to the governor and the mayor's leadership, Cops, Cameras and Care has been obviously effective. With the chief's leadership and what he described in terms of our drop in crime, we are seeing that our customers are coming back to a safer system. 

And this device, you've often heard me say that I think we have more cameras than a Las Vegas casino in our subway network. Now, unlike a robot in Las Vegas, this won't be serving drinks, but it will keep you safe. So, we are excited to partner with the mayor. We very much appreciate your leadership, the chief as well. 

We obviously have a lot of work to do, but there's great momentum, as I said, with what we believe will be the highest ridership on New York City's subway system and bus system since the pandemic. Thank you. 

Meyers: Any questions? 

Question: To the NYPD, how do you train the human officers partnering with it robot, I think it's called? How do you train the human officers to work the foot patrol with a robot? 

Davey: So, I think as was mentioned in the opening, we're going to have a uniformed cop from [inaudible] assigned, if you will, to the robot for the first two month period, it's a pilot. The officers that will be assigned with K5 are certainly trained in how to use it; and depending on how that goes, after the two month pilot is over if we're going to expand upon it certainly we'll have more training for other officers 

Question: How are they going to use it? I mean, you're not going to babysit it, right? I mean, how... 

Davey: Oh, they're going to walk alongside of it, and a lot of it has to do with transparency and questions and curiosity from the public, right? I mean, to have a uniform cop walking with it, particularly in the initial infancy stages, if you will, as we're introducing it to the public, it's very important that the public knows what this robot is, what its capabilities are. So, that's in large part why we're assigning a cop to be with it; and again, like I mentioned, after the two month pilot we'll reassess and see how we move forward. 

Question: Mr. Mayor, [inaudible] if this pilot program goes well, how [inaudible], how many of these will we need, and in how many train stations? . 

Mayor Adams: And first of all, it's cost effective— $9, I think, an hour? $9 an hour. That's below minimum wage. And we only pay for it when it's being operated and when it's actually operating. So, this is a hugely cost effective way, as we deal with very challenging budget restraints we need to find a more cost efficient ways to bring about safety. 

So, we're going to look at the pilot, and then we're going to make a determination of where are good places, like this. These are wide platforms. It's easy to move around, so it's not...this is not fit for everywhere. It's about adapting based on where it is and then we would decide the expansion of it. 

Question: You mentioned the cost, $9 an hour, like how much does it actually cost to buy one of these things? 

Mayor Adams: We're not buying, we're leasing, $9 an hour… $9 an hour. I know you wanted to write how we're wasting money, but I'm sorry I'm taking your thunder away. We're leasing at $9 an hour. This is a good investment in taxpayers' dollars. And I'm hoping you're going to put a line in your story, how cost efficient I am, because I should get that. This is below minimum wage. You know, no bathroom breaks, no meal breaks. This is a good investment, so please make sure he has that is his story, okay? 

Question: Does the Mayor's Management Report show success and show the major felonies up and response times have [inaudible] do you see this as like a way to address some of the negative information [inaudible]? 

Mayor Adams: That's a good question with the MMR Report. Remember what the MMR Report does, is through a particular period of time where we were not trending in the right direction. So, when you look at, as the chief stated, crime is down. So, we're looking at an old window of what was happening at a particular period of time through that fiscal period. 

We're at a whole new day from where that management report was to where we are. You know, so we're reporting on yesterday's news on what has happened during today's time. We are moving in the right direction. Ridership is up. If you look at the management MMR, we don't collect ridership, but you'll say, okay, ridership is down. No, we're up. 

Question: Mayor, you talked about the economic efficiency, but what the chief just said was that he has two [inaudible] officers assigned to the robot. So, those officers are not $9 an hour; and so, where does the efficiency come from if you need to assign officers to the robot itself? 

Mayor Adams: No. First of all, the officers are there during the pilot, because we want people to ask questions, to know what is going on. That's not a permanent. It's not going to be permanent. These are not officers that's going to be there, be with the robot forever. 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. 

Question: So, the robot could then be by itself. 

Mayor Adams: Yes. Yes. Solo patrol, like I did as a transit cop. 

Question: Are there any concerns, not to not think highly of New Yorkers, but when this robo cop goes out on its own, is there any concern about assaults on it or people just, I don't know, throw it into the tracks or...? I'm trying to...I know it looks heavy, but I might be kind of odd for people to see this and people like to have fun in New York, and especially if you see it, I don't know how it gets through on the turnstile, but I'm just curious if there's any concern about vandalization and other things? 

Mayor Adams: And a great question, and here's why we are fiscally smart. Someone damages the robot? They will pay for it. You know, so yes, are you going to get pranksters? Yes. But eventually, this is going to be part of the fabric of our subway system, and people are going to see it, they're going to see the benefits of it, they're going to communicate to ask questions. They, if need, they're going to hit the emergency button. So, yes. 

But we are also going to have...we have a way of making sure that we're monitoring and make sure people are not damaging the equipment. 

Question: Will it be on the platform or the station or both? 

Mayor Adams: I'm sorry? 

Question: I apologize if this was answered, but will it be on the platform or in the station? 

Mayor Adams: Yes, no, not on the platform. This is not on the platform, And let's be clear: this is not a pushover. This is a heavy...this is a very...420 pounds. This is New York tested [laughter]. 

Question: It's just one, right? Just one being piloted? 

Mayor Adams: Yes, uno. 

Question: Mayor, I'm wondering, since this is going to be leased and you guys have said that you're not going to use facial recognition technology, how does the NYPD intend to ensure the integrity of that video, the data. How would you make sure that that data is following all the rules? And then secondly, could you just give us an example, a scenario where you think this robot will actually be useful? 

Davey: Absolutely, I can give you multiple examples. Let me say this: if anyone destroys this or vandalizes this, they're going to be captured on video and we're going to prosecute them, and they're going to be arrested. And then depending on the damage, it could be a felony. So, and just, I warn anyone, the camera system in the subway system, particularly in this station, is expansive and it's supplemented big time by K5. So, if you come here and you want to damage K5 or commit any crime in the subway system, prepare to be identified and arrested. 

So, to your question on the value of the video or what...? 

Question: How do you assure the integrity... 

Davey: So, yes, I mean, the integrity, like I said, I mean, we have a vast system of cameras throughout the city, but nothing's changing. It's the same rules, the same protocols. If video, if something were to occur and we needed video, we extract the video right from K5. You know, in some circumstances, we'll have live access to watching live in real time. 

I mean, there's so much value to video, and I think our riders appreciate that, you know, besides being a deterrence. Just investigative value if something were to occur. You know, super probative when something's captured on video. So, nothing's changing. The rules and... 

Question: [Inaudible.] 

Davey: So, the rules implored by any camera connected to any camera system in New York City remains the same with K5. There's nothing changing, other than as the mayor mentioned, look at it like a camera system on wheels, it's mobile. Nothings changing. 

Question: On the New York [inaudible] people are talking [inaudible]. 

Mayor Adams: Less than minimum wage. If it's damaged they're going to pay for it. We are not doing facial recognition. We are not allowing them to own the video. This robot is on a two month trial period to see its effectiveness; and based on our determination, we will see how we're going to use it continuously. 

The police officers are only there during the trial period. They're not going to be there permanently. So, I want you guys to be extremely creative in your writing style to say, Eric, job well done. [Laughter.] 

Question: What's the minimum contract value? Like, what's the minimum you've got to pay for the contract? 

Meyers: It's negotiable. 

Mayor Adams: The team stated it's all negotiable. 

Question: Is K5 the name you're calling it, you're calling it K5? 

Mayor Adams: Yes, K5. 



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