New York police will begin using mechanized devices that check for conventional explosives in the subway system, reports the New York Times. At various stations starting this week, riders will encounter officials using either hand-held devices that resemble portable vacuum cleaners or larger tabletop ones that look like fax machines. They analyze cloth swabs that are passed over a bag or package to test for the presence of such things as ammonium nitrate or hydrogen peroxide, an ingredient in the terrorist bombings in the London transit system in July.
The new technology, similar to that in use at some airports, will make searches less intrusive because officers will not need to open so many bags. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly continues to push for technological advances in a police force that he believes was lagging in that area before he took over. “Information is the key to so much in policing and law enforcement,” Kelly said. Since the re-election of Mayor Michael Bloomberg last Tuesday, Kelly has rolled out one initiative after another. In the explosives-detection initiative, about a dozen machines will be used in the subways, with the locations selected each day and subject to change as a way to disrupt any potential reconnaissance by would-be attackers.