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United States

Sign of the times: suicide vest detectors undergo testing at New York’s Penn Station

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 9:44am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 9:44am

The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday that it will test bomb-detection equipment with Amtrak at New York’s Penn Station in an effort to thwart travellers with suicide vests.

The technology features two kinds of futuristic cameras that can detect explosives hidden on people without initially requiring a physical search. The TSA has been testing types of the equipment for more than a decade, most recently in the Los Angeles subway in December.

The technology uses a specially designed camera to detect an explosive that is either metallic or non-metallic that passes by the technology. The TSA said no radiation is emitted by the unit and no anatomical details are displayed.

The operator of the equipment sees either a green image of a person, known as a “green ghost,” according to the TSA. The image appears on a laptop monitored by a security officer next the actual image of the individual or a colour-indicator overlay, depending on which model of the technology is being used, according to the TSA.

The New York test in the Amtrak concourse of Penn Station is the latest way the TSA is experimenting with technology to deal with travellers in public areas outside the more rigorous screening at airport checkpoints. The testing comes after incidents such as the New York City subway pipe-bomb explosion beneath the Port Authority in December.

Other threats in public areas of transportation include the January 2017 shooting deaths in the baggage-claim area of a Florida airport and the bombings of airports in Brussels in March 2016 and in Istanbul in June 2016.

The TSA has been working since 2004 with five passenger rail and transit agencies to test bomb-detection equipment, including New Jersey Transit, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District.

In December, the TSA conducted the latest in a decade of testing bomb-detection equipment with Los Angeles transit officials. The test involved futuristic cameras that seek to identify objects that block the natural emissions from a person’s body – without initially stopping the person for a search.