Body scanners designed to detect guns, knives and explosive devices concealed under clothing will be deployed by police for the first time today.
A Home Office-funded trial is taking place at Stratford station in east London as the latest strand in a crackdown on the capital’s violence epidemic.
British Transport Police is using the new Thruvision scanners, which work by revealing objects hidden inside clothing that block body heat. Sensitive cameras capable of screening 2,000 passengers an hour will enable officers to see the size, shape and location of any blade or gun.
Thruvision can scan commuters 30ft away as they ride an escalator or enter ticket barriers without slowing them or requiring a physical search, according to its British inventor. The trial will also seek to identify how officers can use technology to detect if an individual is carrying a knife, potentially reducing reliance on controversial stop and search powers.
Thruvision is already used on the Los Angeles Metro, which last year became the first mass transport system in the US to adopt it.
The initial five-day trial at Stratford will be run by BTP with support from the Metropolitan Police.
Policing minister Kit Malthouse said: “We are pulling out all the stops in a battle against knife crime, in London and across the country.
“Twenty thousand more police officers will help, but new technology can make an enormous impact on public safety, as this equipment shows. No one should feel they can walk the streets with a knife and expect to get away with it.”
BTP Assistant Chief Constable Robin Smith added: “Fortunately, knife crime on the rail network is very low. However, we recognise the important role our force plays in identifying those intent on carrying lethal weapons to commit atrocious crimes.
“In support of the Home Office and other police forces, we are keen to explore how technology can assist us in tackling violent crime head on.”
The initiative comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to extend controversial police stop and search powers with greater use of Section 60, which allows stops in an area without reasonable suspicion for a limited time.
The trial will enable the Home Office, BTP and the Met to consider whether such technologies can play a significant role in efforts to combat knife crime.
The Home Office said scanners do not show any intimate body parts and it is impossible to tell an individual’s gender, age or ethnicity from the images it produces. The scanner does not emit any radiation.
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