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Manchester research puts police gun detectors a step closer

09 Jun 2009

The University of Manchester has been involved in developing a prototype scanner designed to help police identify criminals carrying guns and knives without putting themselves in the line of attack.

The new technology uses electro magnetic waves in order to pick up 'reflections' from concealed guns, gun barrels or knives without the need to be close to the subject.

It also uses ‘neural network’ technology - as used in automatic number plate recognition systems - to identify the weapon and ignore everyday items carried by the subject.

The new device is non-intrusive - no image of the subject's body is produced. 

The research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is sponsored and supported by the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office Scientific Development Branch.

Catherine Coates, EPSRC head of innovation, said: "This represents a great return on public research investment. This device could save lives and free up valuable policing time currently taken up with gun and knife detection."

Professor Nick Bowring, from Manchester Metropolitan University and lead investigator on the project said: "This is a world first and a success for British science. This device means UK police will be able to lead the way in accurate mobile gun and knife detection without putting themselves in the line of attack"

Stuart Ibbotson, Metropolitan Police chief engineer, said: "We are still at early stages and a way off deploying operational capability yet, but so far results are very encouraging. 

“This kind of device would be of great service to officers, helping them to catch people carrying guns and knives without putting themselves in increased danger. It could also help to target stop and search to further increase its effectiveness.

Tests are currently being carried out by the Metropolitan Police Operational Technology Department to see how the scanner could work in practice. 

If successful, the finished product could be available to police forces within 2 years.

As well as the two Manchester universities, the project has involved researchers from Newcastle University and Queen Mary University of London. 

Notes for editors

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests more than £740 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. 

For further information contact:

Professor Nick Bowring, Manchester Metropolitan University
+44 161 2476271

EPSRC Press Office
01793 44 444404
Out of hours: 0776 889 4281