- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced last week a test of security equipment — dubbed Stand Off Explosive Detection Technology — that could detect suicide vests and concealed explosives in city transit stations. The equipment, which looks like a large camera, scans for "objects that block naturally-occurring emissions" from people passing by, producing images that are monitored by nearby transit authority workers.
- New Jersey Transit and Amtrak are also testing the technology this week following a recent terrorist attack in the New York City subway.
- TSA has worked since 2004 to test this technology with five transit agencies — Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District and the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department — however due to recent threats, city dwellers may see this equipment more frequently.
The Dec. 11 attack in a crowded New York subway tunnel — during which a man detonated a homemade pipe bomb strapped to his torso in a failed suicide bombing attempt — sparked panic regarding security measures at transit hubs across the country. And, unfortunately, subway bombings are somewhat common in busy metropolitan areas. Since the 1960s, there have been nearly 50 bombings or associated terror attacks in subway systems across the world — mainly outside of the U.S. — and authorities have failed to find a significant solution to increase security and save lives of commuters.
These security devices are a promising step forward, however this technology has been tested for nearly 14 years and has still not been developed into a commonly-used tool. In a statement, TSA Administrator David Pekoske said, "We need to innovate and evolve faster than the adversary, and more importantly, deploy technology ahead of the threat-curve." It is hopeful that by increasing the focus on this innovation, these devices will be perfected and deployed nationwide.
It is also likely that, if successful, these types of devices will be rolled out at above-ground bus stations and complimentary transit areas. Security threats such as bomb detonations are not exclusive to below-ground stations, and in order to create a truly secure and resilient city, leaders must consider these protective measures at all corners.