[By Wilmer Heck, NRC Handelsblad | Friday, 8 January, 2010.]
It might be the wet dream of every police agent. A portable weapons-detector to see through the clothing of people on the street, checking for pistols, knives and brass knuckles. A futuristic fantasy? Actually, the technology already exists. Look at the security scanners installed at Amsterdam’s schiphol airport for flights to the U.S. They were a response to the thwarted bombing of a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day. So-called millimetre-wave technology helps the scanners detect banned items, explosive powders and liquids in pockets or on bodies.
So why not develop new, better and smaller versions as quickly as possible? Detectors that can see through people’s clothing from metres away, so portable they can be used on the street. That’s the question that occurred to the police in Rotterdam Rijnmond, the region surrounding Rotterdam.
“A lot of people are walking around in the open with weapons,” says Paul de Kruijf, innovation manager of the police force, who conducts research into how new technology can make police work more effective. “A lot of shootings are taking place. If we want security, mobile weapons detectors can help.”
Rotterdam’s police force has received a government grant to develop a mobile weapons detector worth half a million euros, a government spokesman confirmed. (It has to share the grant with another police organisation.) Now the police are approaching companies, universities and research institutes with a proposal containing the requirements such a device must fulfill and the situations in which it would be applied. The goal is to develop a prototype ready for production and delivery to the Dutch police within three years.
The document, a copy of which has been obtained by NRC Handelsblad, proposes that the mobile scanner be initially introduced mainly as an alternative to random body searches that are now conducted on a regular basis I high-risk areas. “Apart from the fact that many innocent citizens have to undergo body searches (infringement of privacy), thorough body searches take at least two minutes per person,” states the document. The mobile weapons detector is thus good news both on privacy grounds and in saving time, the police argue. (Full story here.)