How mobile screening technology can help police boost public safety
Portable X-ray and trace detection tools enable law enforcement agencies to take screening when and where it’s needed
Sponsored by Smiths Detection
By Rachel Zoch for PoliceOne BrandFocus
Screening individuals and their belongings has become a crucial security need for event venues and large public gatherings, but establishing permanent checkpoints can be costly in terms of money, staffing and facility space.
But what if you could literally take those tools on the road, setting up screening when and where it’s needed to thwart bad actors and boost public safety?
Based on a mobile screening system originally developed for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Smiths Detection has started manufacturing the ScanVan, a Ram ProMaster cargo van equipped with a HI-SCAN 100100 PRO X-ray scanner.
The ScanVan provides full X-ray screening capabilities inside the two-axle ProMaster 1500, which does not require a commercial driver’s license to operate. At just under 8 feet tall, it can maneuver streets and highways and easily fit into parking garages. Originally developed to help secure ports and borders, the van can be deployed to arenas, convention centers, campuses and other places where temporary checkpoints are needed.
Using the ScanVan is as simple as parking at a temporary checkpoint and screening belongings with the motorized conveyor belt that moves items through the X-ray quickly. Operators need only open the sliding doors on either side, unfold the conveyor belts, swing out the monitors for viewing the X-ray images and begin scanning. The van includes an onboard power generator and retractable awnings for weather protection.
The idea, says Dr. Michael Frunzi, senior scientist and business development manager with Smiths Detection, is to make X-ray screening portable and flexible so that police can establish a checkpoint when and where needed and then drive away when they are done.
“Even if you’re only covering a few events a year, you can easily deploy them on a statewide level,” he said. “At a moment’s notice, your van is out there and has a level of security that that was just not possible without it.”
This application is for large venues, large events and agencies that are tasked with really big security jobs at varying locations, adds Frunzi.
“When things are particularly suspicious or potentially dangerous,” he said, “you can add a high level of screening, clear the threats and keep everything moving.”
The ScanVan has already been put to the test at major music festivals, and it was named Security Today’s 2019 New Product of the Year in the Sensors and Detectors category at the 2019 Global Security Exchange.
TOOLS FOR CUSTOMIZED AND PROGRESSIVE SCREENING
With the ScanVan, users can change not only the location of the screening but also the target. The onboard X-ray scanner is capable of identifying weapons, including guns, knives and explosives, as well as illicit substances, such as large quantities of pills or bricks of narcotics. Its self-contained X-ray system includes automatic detection software to help users spot potential threats.
“It can be configured to look for explosives and other harmful things,” said Frunzi, “but it also can do very well looking for narcotics. It’s capable for both missions, which are similar but not always done simultaneously.”
Additional equipment, such as trace detection tools and chemical identifiers, can be added as additional screening options and stored on customized racks within the ScanVan to further investigate an item identified by X-ray as a potential threat. The ScanVan has a large storage bay that can be used to carry crowd control stanchions, metal detectors, chemical detectors, sensors and other security equipment.
“If something is specifically seen as potentially threatening or potentially illicit or suspicious, the next step isn’t necessarily to rip open the package, because that could be a hazard to safety,” said Frunzi. “And it would slow things down if you’re going to open and rummage through every last thing that gives you a suspicious reading with an X-ray.”
He recommends carrying a trace detector like the IONSCAN 600 to quickly sample the outside of a suspicious item, as well as the hands of the person who owns it. Trace detectors can detect invisible amounts of these substances to indicate what someone has come in contact with or what a package contains. The IONSCAN 600 can analyze samples swabbed from hands, bag handles and other surfaces to see if there are any trace amounts of explosives or illegal substances.
“It’s an escalation. You don’t want to slow down your screening operations by going to the highest level of screening in all cases. You save it for the ones that you deem to be suspicious or in need of additional examination,” said Frunzi. “You can quickly determine if someone has been handling explosives or narcotics, depending on what your security mission is.”
Carrying multiple tools also allows multiple avenues for screening, he adds.
“You could screen for narcotics completely separate from the bag scan,” said Frunzi. “You could have the X-ray machine online screening one thing, and you could be screening random people for narcotics residue, not necessarily the person whose bag is being scanned at that moment.”
MAKING NEW TECH WIDELY AVAILABLE
Setting up secure access points is an effective way to minimize potential threats at large gatherings and events. Smiths Detection’s ScanVan and other portable screening tools offer law enforcement agencies the ability to quickly and easily establish pop-up screening checkpoints similar to airport security that can catch potential threats and stop bad actors before they gain access to mass gatherings.
The company has several years of experience developing mobile screening solutions. Other systems include the HCVM, a mobile high-energy inspection system built on a truck or trailer, for screening cargo and vehicles.
“We’re always looking for ways to be innovative by taking things that we create for our federal government customers and bringing them to state and local law enforcement. We’re fortunate that we’re able to share that technology,” said Frunzi.