New counter-terrorism device tested at Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new counter-terrorism device aimed at detecting explosives and narcotics was used during the Indianapolis 500, I-Team 8 confirmed.

The public likely didn’t know it was in use, but a representative from a Pittsburgh-based company, ChemImage Sensor Systems, says his company was invited to field test its LightGuard system, a camera that can detect “explosives, chemical threats and narcotics on the surfaces of vehicles, personnel and other items,” according to its website.

Steve Mitts said his company worked in concert with other state and federal law enforcement agencies, setting up outside IMS to randomly check about “10 to 15 percent” of the vehicles going into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

No explosives were detected, and security at the 100th running of Indianapolis 500 was deemed to be a success by law enforcement officials, who met Wednesday during the state’s counter-terrorism council meeting to discuss security details at the event.

News of the LightGuard’s existence surfaced at that meeting, but Indiana State Police at the meeting would not discuss it in detail.

“It’s kinda brand new cutting edge stuff,” said Mitts, who is the director of sales for ChemImage Sensor Systems. “There is not any other system out there that can detect threats from tens to hundreds of meters away in a matter of seconds without any interrogation. There are no harmful x-rays, nothing like that. It’s autonomous. It’s basically just a camera out there.”

Mitts said the LightGuard system has been sold to government agencies both in the U.S. and abroad and has been tested in overseas combat theaters like Afghanistan and Kuwait.

There is no current plan for any state agency in Indiana to purchase one, Mitts said.

“So the purpose is to detect if there (are) chemicals on a vehicle or on a surface that shouldn’t be there. So for instance, if you had an amount of explosive residue say on the door handle of the vehicle. Maybe it’s something that indicated that might be something more at play there,” Mitts said. “It’s a situational awareness tool that will allow the user using it to say maybe we want to take a closer look at that vehicle or that person.”

“We were only at one of the gates. It was random screening. We didn’t have time to screen the 350,000 that came in,” Mitts said during an interview with I-Team 8’s Bennett Haeberle. “We didn’t want to slow down or be a burden to the paying customer. But if we could provide some security and support with random screening, that’s what we were doing.”

Mitts said the device will need more field testing to determine if it could be of some benefit to event screenings. And because it’s mostly been used in military operations, Mitts said the Indianapolis 500 served as a learning experience for his company and its technology.

“From that perspective it was beneficial.” Mitts said.

During Wednesday’s counter-terrorism council meeting, representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Indiana National Guard praised the efforts of Indiana State Police, who were in charge of security at the Indy 500.

“Our ability to share resources and share information makes us more effective and more efficient at providing better security for the state of Indiana,” said Adjutant General Courtney Carr of the Indiana National Guard. “I thought it went amazing. I thought the crowd control was excellent. Traffic management was excellent. It’s one of the biggest venues of the year and in terms of a potential target, it certainly has that potential to be a threat. The state police working with inter-agency partners did a tremendous job.”

David Kane, the executive director for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, said the efforts to coordinate the security detail took months of planning.

“We live in a dynamic world and threats will never be eliminated. What we do is manage risk and manage threats,” Kane said.

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