Security Technology to Prevent School Shootings is Already Available
"We need to get past our emotional, unresolvable gun arguments and look at alternate solutions like technology. I turned to it after my son's murder and I know it can work."
- John Walsh, op-ed featured in USAToday on March 7, 2018
Largely ignored by the media, John Walsh contributed a great article following the Parkland, Florida school shooting on real-time solutions that can be implemented today using security technology to protect students at schools all over the nation from violent intrusion. The recent student protests to ban guns has overshadowed the importance of Mr. Walsh's common sense and solution-oriented article and suggestions.
We aim not to pick a side in this debate, but rather to back up Mr. Walsh's astute statements with examples real life technology that we are experts at installing and integrating here at GenX Security Solutions. If you are reading this and you are seeking technological solutions for your school security, we hope this gives you a great starting point.
John Walsh co-founded the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after the abduction and murder of his young son, Adam. He has spent the past 30 years advocating for the safety of children and hunting down criminals with his production of the TV show America's Most Wanted. Now, in his USAToday op-ed Mr. Walsh writes, "For decades I have seen with my own eyes how next-generation innovations in the hands of both professionals and everyday citizens can enhance child safety efforts. I find it frustrating that despite the proven benefits of modern surveillance, image analytics, deep learning, and artificial intelligence, we regularly ignore how technology is a force multiplier for both on-site security operations and law enforcement." When this technology is combined with trained security professionals and law enforcement, other technology can then be utilized to further secure a site, such as remote controlled locks and keyless entries to secure building areas and minimize both damage and mobility by an attacker, and even prevent them from entry through the first set of doors at all.
Let's go into some of the security technology currently available that fall within these categories.
Image analytics is just how it sounds: the analysis of an image based on key physical and psychological indicators. The following image is a brief example of body indicators that a trained professional would be watching for, including manner of dress, we wrote about in an earlier blog post entitled "Situational Awareness: Suspect Behavioral Clues and Indicators":
Each point shows a clue a security professional would be assessing, such as (1) Wearing oversized clothing or clothing that is inappropriate for the event or the weather, or (5) Turning their body to protect something unseen, which is called "blading" (typically, this is to conceal a weapon.
Clear video footage with a high quality camera, such as those made by HIKVision, for instance, and a trained professional is all that is required for this type of image analysis. But, what about advanced technology, like the kind seen in movies or on television shows? Well, it exists at multiple levels. One such technology is advanced situation awareness surveillance technology, such as exacqVision 8.8.
With exacqVision 8.8 and other technology like it, the operator can view multiple IP cameras at one time, and switch quickly between them. For a school this would be critical since most schools are comprised of many classrooms and intersecting hallways. Being able to see everything at once during a critical situation is key. During a school shooting, the operator would be able to quickly assess the direction of the shooter and how to possibly lock the shooter in an area and prevent further passage, if the operator has access to keyless entries remotely. Law enforcement could communicate with teachers directing students on where to stay safe. In addition, with exacqVision 8.8 it is compatible with many other brands of cameras making integration even smoother and more cost efficient.
Having the ability to quickly scan multiple locations within a school from one vantage point is something that can be implemented across the nation today with existing technology. Having a closed campus with locked front doors and an admissions process is a great first line of defense. But if that isn't available, then having surveillance technology that can act as eyes and ears in multiple locations at once is common sense critical. Then we get into the next level of surveillance: deep learning and artificial intelligence.
Deep Learning + Artificial Intelligence
The objective of deep learning surveillance camera technology is to take the standard video surveillance footage and program it with "if...then" functions by the operator, which would enable the camera to recognize behaviors or triggers in the line of sight and then upon registering the cued behavior or trigger another aspect of surveillance would be enabled. For instance, a deep learning camera in the future could potentially be taught by the operator to recognize the shape of a weapon, for instance, being pulled out of a backpack or from a pocket, and upon recognition an alert would be sent.
At this time, the most common triggers of recognition would be motion, sound, and face detection. Going back to our above example of being cued by a gun, the deep learning camera technology available today could be programmed to be triggered by the motion of a weapon being held out since this is not a typical movement by an in-school student who typically carries books, backpacks, purses, or even sports or band equipment. The benefits of this type of deep learning technology isn't limited to just detecting gun violence within schools, but also could prevent the escalation of more common violent activities such as fist fighting by recognizing a shove or a punch. An alert would be sent out to the designated personnel and they could immediately take action.
Another way in which deep learning surveillance technology artificial intelligence is applied in the real world today is through facial recognition.
In the Parkland, Florida shooting, the suspect was known. This seems to be typical in every school shooting. In addition to being known, there was forewarning. The school was forewarned and other authorities were forewarned of this student's instability and potential for threat. Without getting into any depth about this particular incident, bottom line is both the school and authorities knew who he was and what he looked like. With facial recognition technology the camera and software can identify individuals based on facial features. In the case of a robbery, a face will be logged and identifiers marked for searching. But, in the case of preventing school violence, such as a school shooting by a current or former student, the software could have all student faces recognized.
Let's say you have a suspended or expelled student who is not permitted on campus for a certain number of days or weeks, or longer. With all entries set up with high quality cameras and the utilization of facial recognition technology, a student who should not be granted entry will be identified quickly. Let's say you have students who are skipping school and the facial recognition technology can identify them from multiple points within and outside the school. Or, let's say with a school shooting, a shooter like the former student in Parkland, Florida would be identified immediately by facial recognition technology and if they are a known threat or authorities have been alerted to strange behavior then the facial recognition technology in conjunction with deep learning could send out a notification and/or deny access.
One company that has outstanding facial recognition software for surveillance camera systems is 3VR. The 3VR facial recognition technology is available today and can be installed, integrated, implemented, and trained on within a short time frame. With the 3VR facial recognition software the operator can enter parameters that trigger an event, such as "red shirt" or approximate age. Conversely, the technology can also suggest to the operator what it sees, such as gender, age, and height of a person in question. Today, this type of technology is being used often in retail settings to assess consumer behavior and enhance sales and profit, but using it to enhance safety and security for school children is where it can really be put to great use.
This surveillance and security technology, and more, is available right now for any school in the nation with permission to implement it. This is in addition to access and entry systems, keyless locks, and other point of entry measures. At GenX Security we can assess, diagnose, design, install, implement, and train personnel regarding all of this technology. While this post is brief and we don't go into great detail, the objective with writing it was to take John Walsh's very important op-ed on security technology for schools and back it up with real-world and available-now examples of the solutions he suggests.
The next step, if you represent a school or a campus within 200 miles of Greenville seeking to bring on enhanced technology for the safety and security of your students, is to give us a call or send us a message to go over options in greater detail and get a free quote and bid. We'll be happy to answer any questions you have about security technology implementation at your school.
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