Tinley Park show has latest electronic gadgetry to aid police
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com August 21, 2014 6:50PM
Ryan Maccione, of bike manufacturer A2B, shows off a new electric bike that allows police to travel 20 mph. He was one of 160 exhibitors at the Midwest Security and Police Conference/Expo on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Tinley Park Convention Center. | Susan DeMar Lafferty/Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 23, 2014 6:20AM
The next time an intruder barges into a school, a teacher can hit her “panic button” and alert the nearest police officers and her fellow teachers even before 911 dispatches officers.
And if you think Big Brother is not watching your every move on social media, you haven’t seen the latest in surveillance technology — much of which was on display Tuesday and Wednesday at the Midwest Security and Police Conference/Expo at the Tinley Park Convention Center.
Police and security personnel swarmed the center for two days of training and peeks at the latest electronic products and services — all designed to make their work safer and more efficient.
Participants attended sessions such as “Active Shooter and the Campus and Municipal Response” or “Social Media: The Best Source of Student Intelligence” and viewed the latest tools in responding to emergencies.
A new service, released just a few months ago, is designed to “put a panic button in the hands of every teacher” on their cellphones and attracted a lot of attention at the expo, said Nate McVicker, co-founder of Guard 911.
Police officers can download the Hero 911 app for free and be instantly notified of a school emergency in their vicinity, whether they are on or off duty.
Schools can subscribe to SchoolGuard, which allows teachers to download an app that speed dials 911 and instantly alerts teachers and staff at their school and other schools within five miles, as well as police officials who have joined the Hero 911 network. The app also pinpoints the location, allows teachers to communicate with police and works only on school grounds.
School shootings are the “No. 1 act of domestic terrorism,” McVicker said. “It’s an epidemic, and the problem is not going away.”
He said the goal of his system is to save lives by getting police to the scene more quickly. It took police 126 seconds to respond to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, but with SchoolGuard they could respond in a “nanosecond,” McVicker said.
If there’s a fight in a classroom or a sick student, teachers can push the “teacher assist” button on the app.
SchoolGuard is available for K-12 schools and will be available to college campuses this fall, McVicker said.
By tuning in to social media, police can see what’s happening in their community in real time with live surveillance of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Picasa and Viddy and with location-based monitoring platforms like Geofeedia, a subscription-based service now used by Chicago police and 200 other departments as well as corporations and the news media, according to Ted Motley, Geofeedia’s account executive.
Police can zero in on a geographic area and see what people are talking about on social media, find out exactly where they are and who their friends are. They can find witnesses, establish timelines, identify suspects and monitor specific sites for potential threats.
“It’s a fast, easy way to see what is happening in a specific location,” Geofeedia office manager Geneva Malagutti said.
Another new tool for police is an electric bicycle powered by a lithium battery. It enables a police officer to travel up to 20 mph and reduce their response times, Ryan Maccione, of A2B, the bike manufacturer, said.
“They are able to cover 10 times the ground of a regular bike. They can cover the whole community without a lot of effort,” he said. “It’s great for community relations, and it allows them to do their job.”
The bikes go 40 miles on a single charge, and by employing “pedal assistance,” they can save battery power. While these bicycles are also sold to the public, the police version includes a siren, flashing lights and waterproof bags to protect the laptop computer.
Another intriguing law enforcement product, which almost seems like a toy, is the iRobot — a camera-toting, compact robot that can literally be thrown into a dangerous situation, such as gunfire or a hazardous material spill, while police view what’s occurring via real-time video a safe distance away. It carries sensors that can detect explosives, chemicals or radiation.
“It does everything that’s dirty, dull and dangerous,” said iRobot’s product manager, Rainer Gasche. “It goes anywhere you do not want to send an officer.”