Under control: Crowd management and threat detection
Editor / Provider: Christine Chien, a&s International | Updated: 9/25/2013 | Article type: Hot Topics
Otavio Jordao da Silva, a 20-year-old referee at an amateur soccer game had allegedly stabbed a player, 31-year-old Josenir dos Santos Abreu, after he refused to leave the field and the confrontation became physical. Abreu died on the way to the hospital and Silva met his fateful end when angry spectators stormed the field, then mercilessly stoned and decapitated the young referee. This gruesome and violent double murder during the recent Confederations Cup in Brazil, reported by The Guardian, is an example of a security provider's worst nightmare. No one had expected this to happen. Neither was it clear why the referee had a knife in his possession, or why the spectators were able to storm the field so easily with no interception.
To ensure the minimal chance of such events from occurring, different methods of controlling the crowds and detecting possible threats are being implanted in different large-scale events.
Communications is another vital point for any event's success, and the network will play a crucial role in ensuring the media, athletes, officials, volunteers, and visitors can communicate from anywhere, anytime. Communication devices such as mobile radio systems, solutions, and products are also vital to the security service providers of the event. Taking the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games as an example, the resort town will host 5,500 Olympic athletes and 25,000 volunteers, and is forecasted to attract approximately three billion TV viewers. Of the estimated 75,000 people to visit the park each day, many will bring bandwidth-consuming devices and expect them to work flawlessly.
If a reliable professional mobile radio (PMR) infrastructure already exists, such as TETRA or TETRAPOL, security providers can supply or rent additional radio terminals for the duration of the event. Further addressing communication needs, companies such as Cassidian offer systems that can meet the need for satisfying several hundred users spanning over large zones or areas. “The system, whose elements are housed in rugged transit cases, is designed to cope with extreme environmental and operating conditions. It enables users to transmit voice and data information using TETRAPOL radio and telephone terminals,” Olivier Koczan, Head of Sales Security Communication Solutions at Cassidian stated. Other radio communications solutions, such as the Tactical Cell 3G IDR (Independent Digital Repeater), “allow security forces to be provided with voice and data services within a minimum time frame and to communicate in extreme situations or in areas with no radio coverage. In addition, it enables all radio terminals deployed to be geolocated to increase teams' safety, with minimum form factor and optimum intervention monitoring.”
For the 2012 London Olympics, the London police decided to utilize people's smartphones for crowd control. By downloading the app, users will have access to street level crime information, maps showing police stations, London's underground transport links, point of interests, along with other useful information about the city. The key feature of this app however, helps the police assess and monitor crowd density, but only when users agree to share their location data. According to a media release from the London School of Economics and Political Science, joint developer of the app, “this information is used anonymously by City of London Police to help to generate virtual ‘heat maps' of crowds. By combining this data with reports from officers on patrol and CCTV, the force can evaluate the impact of crowded areas or large gatherings. The app's crowdsourcing component will provide greater clarity on the movement of crowds during events and allow the City of London Police to send relevant warning and informing messages to people through the app, on twitter, and through the force website.”
Other venues and large-scale events are starting to use smartphone apps as methods of crowd control, but also to enhance crowd experience, such as the Bristol Motor Speedway, NCAA Women's Final Four, or events such as Elvis Week and National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Some access control systems “functioned as a ‘crowd counter', making sure that the attendance in the specified area is below the maximum amount allowed,” according to Hagai Katz, Senior VP of Marketing and Business Development at Magal S3. “The design and implementation of sound crowd control policies, limiting access to the sporting venues, crowd monitoring, and gate control can help prevent these crowd-related accidents.”
With the surge of biometrics integration, new applications are increasingly implemented in large-scale events as well. Recently, Vision-Box has installed a solution for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Arena Castel?o stadium in Brazil that integrates biometrics along with their access control. “When people enter the stadium a picture is taken and associated with the ticket number, allowing for example, if the person is on a black list, an alarm will be triggered; identifying the person in the stadium; identifying ticket fraud since the ticket is already assigned to one specific person. The system is for crowd control so the focus is to control what happens inside the arena. At a stadium you want to get people inside ASAP so the process needs to be simple and transparent, otherwise you may have to enforce crowd control even before people enter the stadium,” said Nuno Periquito, Marketing Manager at Vision-Box.
All persons and vehicles arriving at any large-scale events should be carefully screened prior being granted entry. On more than one occasion, people have been able to sneak in prohibited items into venues and facilities due to factors such as careless or lackadaisical security staff and personnel or having fixed screening locations and porous venue perimeters.
According to a report from Homeland Security Research, the explosive trace detection market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent from 2013-2020. Some of the drivers include counter-terror investments by the Indian government, airport and public security investments by China, and enforcement of 100 percent cargo screening on all passenger flights by the US legislation.
In preparations for Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Russian government has further beefed up security before the games. It has deployed 25,000 police officers and thousands of other military and security personnel to protect the city, patrol Olympic facilities, and screen incoming vehicles and x-ray construction materials for explosives. “As the attack in Boston reminded us, terrorist threats are constantly evolving and single, static defenses are not enough to protect people. The best defense involves multiple layers of security that are mobile and include the capabilities to detect a wide range of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive threats,” said Lance Roncalli, VP of Sales, Americas, at Smiths Detection. Most common threat detection devices include x-ray screening equipment, metal detectors (walkthrough or handheld), under-vehicle scanners, and bomb/narcotics detection devices.
Screenings are conducted at all points of entry, and can be conducted again once the person enters and proceeds further into the venue or facility. Screening devices include threat liquid detection, which uses harmless, electromagnetic technology to assess the physical properties of liquids then analyzed by computer chips using sophisticated software to determine if a bottled liquid contains any threat. Also, explosive vapor sniff detector with a fluorescent polymer that lights up when vapor emanating from explosive materials is detected, without having to come in contact or direct line of sight with the explosive device itself. Having chemical-based detection systems are important because plastic RDX-based explosives can avoid being detected by metal detectors.
“As with consumer electronics, threat detection technologies have gotten increasingly smaller, more sophisticated but easier to use. Those changes have allowed a level of mobility that was previously unavailable, making security screening at large and changing event venues less difficult with the right combination of technologies. The combination of these new characteristics can significantly improve the ability to provide effective layered security through a single purchase,” said Roncalli.
The Department of Homeland Security has recently started to develop a millimeter wave stand-off detection system. Currently being developed by the Awareness and Localization of Explosives Related Threats (ALERT) Center, is a concept that involves multiple radar units that can be pointed in the direction of crowds of people that are approaching access points or other points of entry. Each individual can be scanned at a distance of 50 meters or more to identify dangerous individuals who appear to be dressed normally, but are concealing improvised explosion devices (IED) under their clothes and garments. Through sophisticated signal processing, the system would be able to collect enough information in the radar signal to identify an object that does not appear to meet the smooth contours and characteristics of skin, for example, metallic objects or meets other characteristics of IEDs. With its phased array of radar units, the system will be able to focus in on a specific scene or area of one person or a crowd of people. This vehicle-mount, portable system will be able to fulfill the need for detection in large-scale events such as concerts, parades, rallies, and sporting events.
With the help of existing and newly developing devices and equipment, crowd control and threat detection can be improved at large-scale events. It is important to remember technology is only supposed to be a tool to help human operators, not a replacement. Proper training of all equipment and devices should be relayed to all security staff and personnel to ensure smooth operations and increased accuracy in threat detection.