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Cities and theme parks adopt new weapon detection tech to curb gun violence

Weapon detection screening systems are becoming increasingly common. These systems use touchless sensors to screen out weapon-like objects in people’s pockets and backpacks and feed that information back to a computer system for security guards to review.

Detroit city leaders want this technology to help prevent gun violence.

As WDET’s Eli Newman reports, that means bringing security checkpoints into public spaces.

This article was originally published on Marketplace on August 11, 2022.

Weapon detection screening systems are popping up in many places. Think Metal Detector 2.0. Disney World and Six Flags have them, and more and more school districts screen students through one each day as they enter school.

In Detroit, city leaders hope the technology can be used to reduce gun violence by installing security checkpoints in public spaces. As part of the city’s celebrations around July 4th, crowds gathered along the riverbanks to catch a glimpse of the annual fireworks show. It was the first time since the pandemic began, and thousands of people from Detroit and surrounding suburbs came to watch.

Tony Semenuk went to see this spectacle. Until this year, residents of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, were hesitant to participate.

“Every year when I come here, there are fireworks, but I don’t know if they’re gunshots,” he said. “It’s been six years since I came here.”

Semenuk noted a big difference in this year’s fireworks show. Detroit police have demarcated the best places to see fireworks and created temporary “weapon detection zones.”

The Detroit Police Department fenced Hart Plaza, and attendees had to walk through Evolv Technology’s weapon detection gate. (Eli Newman/WDET)

Before entering, you had to go through a weapon detection checkpoint. Rows and rows of gates fitted with small cameras let people pass by for inspection. Taliyah Brown worked for a private security firm hired to manage the fireworks system. She monitored her tablet to see if anyone had been flagged.

“This is my first work,” Brown said. “But I’m good at technology.”

Most people got through without issue. There was hardly any line. However, the system flagged many spectators. Brown pointed out the alert on her tablet. Here is a loop of her video showing an orange box appearing on someone’s wagon passing by. So there could be weapons.

When the weapon screening system detects a potential weapon, an orange box will appear on Evolv Technology's video screen.
When the system detects a potential weapon, an orange box will appear on Evolv Technology’s video screen. (Eli Newman/WDET)

“As you can see, one, two, three, all in the same area,” Brown said, pointing to the video on his tablet.

Brown searched for herself, found nothing, but found several metal folding chairs in the wagon. He explained that it had caused

But otherwise, Brown said the weapon detection system works just fine. She was asked to leave by security and then by the police. She had a gun in her purse.

“I’m in the National Guard. I work on the roads. After the security team let her go, Gangnam said. If it leads to , that’s great.”

Earlier this year, Detroit paid a Massachusetts-based company called Evolv Technology more than $1.3 million for a weapons detection gate. Authorities say the technology will allow him to pass 3,600 people an hour through these checkpoints.

“That’s one person per second,” said Evolv co-founder Mike Ellenbogen. “I want to simplify the red light and green light system.”

Evolv gates use magnetic field sensors to sort and classify objects, Ellenbogen said. However, it is not 100% accurate as the system’s artificial intelligence sometimes confuses everyday items with threats.

“If it’s a tubular piece of steel, it could be a gun barrel or a folding chair leg,” Ellenbogen said.

Still business is going well. The company is steadily growing its list of subscribers. Thousands of his Evolv gates are used in museums, schools and stadiums around the country.

The 2022 Ford Fireworks as seen from Hart Plaza. The show was the first since the pandemic started.
Independence Day fireworks from Heart Plaza. The show was the first since the pandemic started. (Eli Newman/WDET)

In Detroit, Mayor Mike Duggan said at a policy meeting earlier this year that he wanted checkpoints to be used for nonsocial occasions such as nightclubs and block parties.

“We don’t want to arrest you,” Duggan said. “We told you in advance that it was there. Please leave the gun at home.”

By the end of the fireworks show, the Detroit Police Department had arrested four people for carrying concealed weapons.

Some in the city are concerned about increased surveillance, while others say they love the new technology. Demetrius Jackson lives near where the fireworks show was held. He said he is not in the habit of going out in large crowds, but he decided to attend the event.

“Usually there wasn’t a lot of security here,” Jackson said. “I think we have enough security now and nothing can go wrong.”

Evolv technology isn’t just for Detroit.

Engadget reports that New York City has deployed the technology at local hospitals and city halls, and Mayor Eric Adams has expressed interest in installing weapons detectors on subways after April’s shootings. is shown.

One of the issues on many people’s minds these days is school safety. Recently, the Greenville, South Carolina school district installed his Evolv technology. price? About $1.2 million.

Finally, surveillance technology is not just for weapon detection. This month, another police surveillance tool, License Plate, aired a show about his leader.