SEPTA plans to install AI gun detection software to improve public safety in Philadelphia

SEPTA plans to install AI gun detection software to improve public safety in Philadelphia


The 15th Street SEPTA station on April 18, 2022. Credit: Jesse Zhang

Starting next year, SEPTA will implement artificial intelligence-based gun detection software in its surveillance cameras as part of an effort to combat gun crimes. on the transportation system.

The technology, which comes from a company called ZeroEyes, uses artificial intelligence to detect if an individual has a gun. It will then send an immediate alert to the ZeroEyes dispatch center, located in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and SEPTA Police will be notified of the incident within three to five seconds. Once the alert is sent, a police officer will arrive on the scene from seconds, if already in the specific station, to several minutes, if the nearest officer is positioned at a nearby station.

SEPTA approved a six-month pilot program of the technology and a budget of $63,000 for its implementation at its November monthly meeting. Three hundred of the 30,000 live cameras currently installed in SEPTA stations will be equipped with ZeroEyes technology.

Initially the implementation will focus primarily on stations on the Market-Frankford line and the Broad Street line, but will eventually expand to include a wide range of tube, tram and bus stations.

SEPTA is the first transit agency to implement the ZeroEyes program, although it is used by the US Department of Defense and other entities.

The implementation of ZeroEyes technology comes in the wake of a series of recent violent incidents on the SEPTA system.

“We are, unfortunately, dealing with gun violence issues across the country, and while such incidents are very rare on SEPTA, even one is too many,” said Andrew Busch, Director of Relations with the media for SEPTA, at the Daily Pennsylvanian. .

He added that SEPTA is aware that its riders have safety and security concerns, and they hope to reassure riders that they feel safe is a top priority.

In New York, the MTA is testing platform barriers after a woman was shoved to death in front of a train at a Times Square subway station. Busch said SEPTA pays attention to what other transit agencies across the country are doing to improve safety.

SEPTA intends to do further studies to see if such technology will be effective. However, Busch said that due to the high cost of implementing the technology, he doesn’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

In addition to the ZeroEyes technology, SEPTA plans to place unarmed security guards at stations who can monitor everything that’s going on and enforce rules, such as no smoking and people paying the price. of the journey.

SEPTA will also increase the number of outreach workers it has employed. They are trained social workers whose goal is to help Philadelphia’s most vulnerable populations, including those who are homeless, addicted, or have mental health issues. SEPTA currently has 30 outreach workers, but will increase its budget to provide 57.

“We try to help people in crisis and treat them with compassion and dignity and help them get any services they may need. But we must also, as part of this, make it clear that the station, a train or a bus are not suitable to be shelters or places where drugs can be consumed in the open,” Busch said.

Busch also mentioned that SEPTA raised the salaries of its transportation police officers earlier this year after noticing that their salaries were not competitive with the Philadelphia Police Department. SEPTA is currently hiring and training new agents.

Busch summarized that all of SEPTA’s efforts to improve commuter safety, including the ZeroEyes program, are not intended to cause a dramatic change in how the system works. They are intended to use what already exists and to innovate to solve existing security problems.

He said he doesn’t expect riders to notice any differences, such as new cameras, and added that the intent behind this technology is to track incidents that occur and what SEPTA can do to respond to them.

“We hope that reassures [our riders]and we can’t wait to see how it goes and see if [the ZeroEyes program] is something that’s viable for us in the long run,” Busch said.

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