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The Eastern Echo Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

A police-labeled vehicle used by the Eastern Michigan University Department of Public Safety is parked on campus.

University adopts AI-fueled safety initiative to prevent gun violence

In October, Eastern Michigan University will become the state's first high education institution to launch an artificial intelligence-based firearm detection technology on campus.

Designed by a U.S.-based company named ZeroEyes, the technology is a video analytics platform coupled with an immediate notification service. The system is the only one of its kind to receive the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act designation. The SAFETY Act, passed by Congress in 2002, "provides incentives for the development and deployment of anti-terrorism technologies by creating systems of risk and litigation management," according to the DHS' website.

EMU Chief of Police Matthew Lige said the search for a technology to improve campus safety was expedited after the fatal shooting on Michigan State University's campus in February. Three students died and five others were injured in that shooting.

After EMU's research and vetting process of the system, a three-year contract was signed amounting to $300,000.

Beginning in October, the firearm detection technology will be installed on 500 of the approximately 1,000 cameras on EMU’s campus.

Once the system is operational, each camera with the software will have the ability to detect firearms within its view. If a firearm is detected by the AI, an alert is sent to the 24/7 staffed ZeroEyes headquarters for authentication. If authenticated, an image of the detected firearm would be sent to EMU Department of Public Safety (DPS) for immediate response.

Lige said this system will support first responders in more quickly identifying and mitigating potential threats to campus safety.

“We’re leveraging our technology to improve how first responders address and hopefully prevent an act of violence on this campus,” Lige said.

The AI technology is also designed to help reduce the department’s reliance on 911 calls, which, according to Lige, are not always reliable.

“If you’ve ever had to call 911 when you’re scared, … if you’re involved in something you never expected you were going to be involved in, it’s not uncommon for information to be inaccurate,” Lige said.

A key component of the software, according to the company, is that it identifies guns, not people.

“[The] platform does not store personal or biometric data or conduct any kind of facial recognition,”  ZeroEyes reported on its frequently asked questions page.

AI firearm detection might be new to EMU, but it will not work alone on campus. Current university programs including RAVE text alerts, free ALICE trainings and Student Government-sponsored self-defense classes are in place to give students and staff an opportunity to take part in their own safety.

Lige said when it comes to this campus safety initiative and beyond, he wants to “constantly encourage students, staff and visitors, if you see something, say something.”

“[It’s] really a team effort,” Lige said.