Over the past several decades, gun-related crime has become a critical issue for our communities. In the United States alone, more than 700 people lost their lives to active shooter situations in 2021. Each month, each week, each day, the news is filled with breaking news stories of senseless gun violence and unimaginable loss of life.
While the root cause for this uptick in violence is under heavy debate, law enforcement personnel, event security staff, and school officials need to take action. New strategies and protocols have been developed to identify active shooters and quickly mitigate potential violence.
Thankfully, technology is on our side.
With Active Shooter Location Identification (ASLI) systems, officials can pinpoint with extreme accuracy the location, number of shooters, and even the identity of the perpetrators. Powered by artificial intelligence, these advanced systems are gaining popularity for their ability to provide real-time data and situational awareness in critical situations.
In this article, we'll explore ASLI technology and how it can help communities stay safe.
Not a New Technology - Just Improved
To better understand ASLI, we need to learn its origins. The technology first emerged in the 1980s to detect potential threats and has been used extensively by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent years, however, the technology has undergone a massive transformation with the help of artificial intelligence (AI).
Issues in the Past
If you're at all familiar with ASLI systems, their shortcomings have been one of the most prominent aspects in literature on them. Initial iterations of the technology were limited and focused entirely on detecting gunshot sounds. Unfortunately, they were often inaccurate, returned false alarms frequently, and thus were ineffective and costly to the agencies and communities they were supposed to protect.
Loud sounds such as car alarms, fireworks, and heavy machinery were often misidentified as gunfire, resulting in un-needed tactical responses from law enforcement. Each of these occurrences eroded law enforcement credibility, undermined confidence in the technology, and wasted taxpayer investment.
Lack of Information
In the past, the information ASLI systems passed to response teams was extremely limited. Law enforcement knew of a potential threat, but wouldn't know the specifics - was it one shooter or multiple shooters? Were they inside or outside the building? What kind of weapon were they using?
These limitations placed law enforcement officials in a difficult situation. With limited information, officers were required to make quick and potentially dangerous decisions about how to proceed.
Active Shooter Identification Today
Thankfully, the days of false alarms and limited data are behind us. The latest iterations of ASLI systems use AI to improve accuracy and provide real-time data to officials.
Within seconds of capturing the gunfire sound, the sensor determines its location and transmits that location data to PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras. These cameras instantly redirect focus on the location of the gunfire, providing near-instant visual contact with the shooter. The system then sends alerts to security agencies, revealing the location of the shooter(s) and potentially even the caliber of gunfire.
Advancements in Triangulation
Improved triangulation technology allows modern ASLI systems to pinpoint locations with incredible accuracy.
In fact, the technology used in Twenty20 Solutions' Active Shooter Location Identification module was first employed by NATO on the battlefields of Bosnia. Forces engaged in combat needed an effective way to locate snipers. The technology designed to locate shooters in urban, war-time environments is now available for law enforcement officials to reduce gun-related crime and improve the safety of their citizenry.
Improved microphones allow for better detection of gunshots and other suspicious noises. This improved accuracy can help to reduce the number of false alarms and mitigate costly, un-needed responses.
In addition to improved accuracy, improvements in microphones may also help identify the caliber of rounds fired. With this information, responders can better prepare for the possibility of multiple shooters or, worse -- a shooter with high-powered weaponry. This is critical information as the equipment and tactics used in these cases can differ from those employed when dealing with a single shooter.
Sophisticated AI, More Control
Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, ASLI systems are becoming increasingly more accurate and reliable.
AI-enabled facial recognition, when linked to local and federal law enforcement databases, can provide responders with the shooter’s identity. The sophistication of these modern active systems give law enforcement a major tactical advantage.
Once identified, PTZ cameras can be aimed directly at the shooter's location -- even moving with the suspect as they traverse the area. This gives officials a live view of the situation and allows them to assess the danger posed to bystanders as well as responders.
The Importance of Speed
In any combat situation, speed is crucial. When dealing with an active shooter, it is even more critical. With the lives of innocent, unarmed bystanders at risk, speed, accuracy, and control can be the difference between life and death.
AI-based active shooter identification systems improve speed and accuracy, giving officials the tools they need to quickly neutralize threats and prevent further casualties.
Who Can Benefit from Active Shooter Location Identification Systems?
While it may seem that ASLI systems are only beneficial to those in law enforcement, the truth is that these systems can benefit any organization or business.
One of the tragic truths of modern society is that schools are often targeted by shooters looking to wreak havoc. The most vulnerable members of our communities, and those employed to protect them, are all too familiar with this threat.
ASLI technology can be a valuable part of an overall security plan. Cameras with the ability to identify shooters can help prevent shootings from happening in the first place or stop them before they become a catastrophic event.
Additionally, access control systems can be automatically activated to secure gates and doors, further minimizing the destructive potential of an active shooter. By isolating threats outside the building, potential victims can be kept safe in designated areas, providing precious additional time for first responders to arrive and take control of the situation.
The unfortunate truth is that mass shootings can happen anywhere. No place is immune from the risk of gun violence, not even the workplace.
Businesses should consider installing an active shooter identification system to keep employees safe. A robust security system will allow officials to quickly identify a threat and take action before it becomes deadly.
It's not just large businesses that need to be concerned with active shooters, either. Even small companies with limited resources can benefit from having a basic security system in place. With solutions like Twenty20 Solutions' Active Shooter Location Identification, even small companies can protect themselves from dangerous individuals who wish to harm others.
Festivals, Fairgrounds, and Large Events
When tens of thousands of people come together in one place, the risk for an active shooter situation increases. It is vital to have a plan in place to keep everyone safe.
An ASLI system can be a vital part of that plan. With the ability to quickly identify a threat, officials can begin to take action before anyone is hurt. Pinpointing the exact location of a shooter can help isolate the incident. Security can then launch safety protocols and move crowds away from the area strategically.
The Quantifiable Costs of Poor Protection
The truth is that most shootings go unreported. In both rural and inner-city locations, random gunshots have become commonplace over the years. As non-lethal gunfire goes unreported, it often leads to escalations in firings, resulting in injuries and death.
Of course, reducing injuries or loss of life is a top priority. And while you can't put a price on the life of someone's son, daughter, or partner, some quantifiable costs are often overlooked.
The first is the cost to emergency responders. Law enforcement, firefighters, and paramedics are dispatched to the scene when a shooting happens. These individuals often work long hours under intense stress. They also put their own lives at risk when responding to an active shooter situation. First responders' lives are safer when armed with more data and a tactical advantage.
There are heavy costs associated with medical care for victims of shootings. Victims can require extensive and expensive medical treatment, both short- and long-term. Treatment can include mental health care, often not covered by insurance.
Finally, there is the cost to society as a whole. These events cause widespread fear and anxiety. Uncertainty and turmoil can lead to a decrease in tourism and business investment. It can also impact how people view their communities and lead to an increase in crime.
Research has shown that each homicide costs the local community $1.2 million. The combination of first responders’ expenses, investigative expenses, task forces expenses, and fees related to legal proceedings can be significant.
Implementing ASLI solutions to limit threats can help cities, law enforcement agencies, and organizations save money.
The Ultimate Cost
No matter the scale, location, or intent, gun violence has a devastating impact on our communities. Both physical and emotional damage caused by mass shootings can be long-lasting and far-reaching.
While technology is only a tool, an Active Shooter Location Identification system will go a long way in helping you protect the people in your community, at your event, or attending your school or workplace. It's a key component of a full-scale strategy to offset the threat of active shooters. But with technology on our side, we can gain a tactical advantage and minimize the threat for everyone.
To learn more about Twenty20's Active Shooter Location Identification technology, contact us for additional information.