The NYPD is working with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop technology that can detect concealed firearms at a distance.
The device will be able to read a form of natural energy emitted by people called terahertz, and if something is obstructing that energy, the device will highlight that object on a person's body.
"This technology has shown a great deal of promise as a way of detecting weapons without a physical search," said police spokesman Paul Browne in a statement.
Some civil libertarians said there may be a potential upside to this new technology.
"If we take the police department at their word, that stop-and-frisks are necessary to get guns off the street, then this technology — if it were to work, if it were to be implemented — should reduce the stop-and-frisk numbers dramatically," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
But Lieberman said the technology would raise other potential civil liberties problems.
'It does implicate the right of privacy," Lieberman said. "The ability to walk down the street free from a virtual police pat-down is a matter of concern."
The police have repeatedly defended their stop-and-frisk practice as an important crime-fighting tool that gets guns off the street.
Browne said the department employs other strategies to reduce the number of illegal guns in circulation, including undercover investigations, gun buy-back programs with the public and partnering with clergy leaders to deter gun violence in minority communities.
But Browne said this technology would allow police to tackle gun violence more aggressively.
The device would be placed in a vehicle and could scan an area for weapons. The police said the technology is currently being tested but so far is only detecting weapons from four feet away. They hope to increase the distance to about 80 feet.
Browne said the department will roll out the new technology as soon as it meets their requirements.