At 5 foot 3 inches tall and weighing about 400 pounds, K5 — the NYPD’s new Midtown patrol robot — resembles something from the Star Wars franchise or an old sci-fi flick. But the droid is not for cosplay or a prop.
K5 is currently stationed at the Times Square subway station, where at the stroke of every midnight, it automatically pushes off from its charging station and gets to work patrolling a small patch under the Crossroads of the World. Still under its trial phase, the machine is trailed by several cops while on its route.
Regardless of the overnight hours, K5 has commuters turning heads and furiously pawing at their pockets in a frantic attempt to pull out their phones and either video the robot as it makes its rounds on the graveyard shift, or to even take a selfie with it.
According to NYPD Lieutenant Burt Antoine, K5 has served as a conduit between the public and law-enforcement by being a talking point and an attraction which tourists and New Yorkers alike marvel at.
“It’s definitely been positive. A lot of people come up, they ask questions, they’re in a more jovial manner than compared to if it was nothing there and they have questions, and they’re curious. At the end of the day, it leads to conversation in a more positive route,” Antoine said.
The exact end of the trial period is unknown, yet it is believed that K5 will continue to be implemented once it concludes — albeit without its human escorts.
Although the public has had nearly two months to accustom themselves to the mechanical cop, many straphangers are still taken by surprise when it comes rolling down the mezzanine, occasionally announcing its presence in a long, humming voice.
“It reminds me of the movie Robocop. Now is the future,” said commuter Duwon Bryant, describing the first time he saw it. “I was in shock and awe. I was sort of overwhelmed.”
K5 is equipped with several surveillance cameras and a button that once pushed directly connects riders to 311 in order to report a concern or crime. Riders like Adil Mussapiov believe this is a good idea since he thinks it will be able to catch dangerous individuals.
“It looks pretty friendly. People talk about how AI looks scary these days, but this looks pretty friendly. I like it, it’s fun,” Mussapiov said.
But not everyone feels that way.
Some riders who pass through Times Square overnight feel that the funds spent renting the machine could be used elsewhere, such as on police training.
“I would rather it go to more training,” Maggie Malone said. “I think it is a waste of money. I don’t know why the cops have to chaperone it.”
Lieutenant Antoine responded by stating that the station is the officers’ foot post and they would be in the area regardless of the robot.
Opinions on the NYPD’s robot will likely continue to range from support to harsh criticism as long as the machine keeps on rolling through the Big Apple’s transit system.