AI may be the future of preventing school shootings
by: Henry Rosoff
MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. (PIX11) — Artificial intelligence is creeping into our lives in many ways — one of the most promising possibilities is spotting guns before they can be used at schools.
PIX11 News got an inside look at one of the first schools in the country using the tech to better spot firearms in Mt. Holly, New Jersey.
At Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly, something is always watching. It goes beyond the hundreds of security cameras Dr. Christopher Heilig, the superintendent, pointed out as he walked around the sprawling campus.
“As a school administrator, it’s a little bit different these days,” Heilig explained. “First and foremost, first thing in the morning, we’re always thinking security and safety.”
This is why his high school became one of the first in the country to add something extra by working with a company called ZeroEyes. It uses existing video cameras, coupled with artificial intelligence gun detection.
ZeroEyes software worked in the background to flag guns and draw a box around them when visible. Someone in the company’s operation center then immediately reviews the alert. If verified, they immediately notify school officials, dispatch and police.
“That’s why we founded ZeroEyes, to get an image of that gun and that shooter to the right people, so they can get there before shots fired and know what they’re getting into,” cofounder Sam Alaimo said. “That’s half the problem. First responders don’t know what they’re getting into. They get conflicting information in the fog of war.”
ZeroEyes is one of several companies implementing this type of artificial intelligence technology in places such as schools, hospitals and train stations. All of the founders are retired Navy SEALs, and they only hire retired members of the military and law enforcement for their operations center. They believe seeing a gun sooner saves lives.
“Depending on what source you get, be it the FBI or Secret Service or whatever, they say anywhere from two to 30 minutes the gun is exposed,” Alaimo said. “That is a significant amount of time. If you look at Parkland, the El Paso Walmart shooting, Uvalde, that gun is exposed for multiple cameras before the shot is fired.”
PIX11 News spoke with Alaimo at our Manhattan studios because he was already in town taking meetings. Here’s what he could say about the possibility of AI keeping an eye out for guns in New York City:
“We’re in contact with quite a few organizations here … in the commercial, education and government space, and we should be seeing something soon.”
Mayor Eric Adams, a self-professed fan of modern tech, has a whole team hunting down the latest innovations.
“They don’t get caught up in the day-to-day crisis,” Adams said at a recent press conference. “They are scanning and interviewing on new technology so we can run our city more efficiently.”
On the specific possibility of AI embedded within city school security, the New York City Department of Education told PIX11 News there was nothing for now, but “…we might have more by end of the month.”