POLICE officers’ mobile phones could be turned into portable scanners to spot knife thugs from 20 feet away.
It’s hoped the scanner, part of a standard smartphone with an app, could be deployed by cops to see knives through clothing including trousers and heavy coats.
The tech is being developed by researchers at Nottingham Trent and Loughborough University with £100,000 government funding – as it attempts to get a grip on the country’s knife crime epidemic.
Yesterday a man in his 40’s was killed in a “machete attack” in Harrow, North West London. His death was the 33rd murder in the capital this year.
The latest incident came one day after a fifth person was knifed in the back in Edmonton, North London – after four people were randomly stabbed in a rampage over the weekend.
Police are continuing to question a 30-year-old man on suspicion of attempted murder.
The scanning technology uses electromagnetic waves to detect a hidden knife. A computer algorithm then determines it’s a weapon.
Police could then stop and search suspects.
The academics at Nottingham Trent and Loughborough Uni and five other firms have granted government funding [around £100k each] to fast-track technology that can be rolled out in streets, railway stations and major events.
It’s hoped the technology will be more effective than the current scanner arches police use, which suspects can spot and then avoid.
KNIFE CRIME EPIDEMIC
Professor Amin Al-Habaibeh, an expert in intelligent engineering systems from Nottingham Trent University, said: “Knife crime is a growing problem in the UK, but this technology will enable police to spot concealed weapons from a distance which are hidden under clothing, allowing officers to apprehend those who may be about to commit a serious offence.
“At the same time – by providing police with improved intelligence – it will reduce the number of unnecessary stop and searches which take place, allowing innocent people to go freely about their business.
“Our design is extremely cost-effective as it is based on existing technologies and ultimately could be made available through every day mobile phones.”
Victoria Atkins, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability said: “Recent senseless killings that have snatched young lives away have shocked people across the UK.
“We are determined to protect families from these devastating crimes, and new technology must play a key role in this, together with effective early intervention work and strong law enforcement.”
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The announcement came as Theresa May hosted a summit on knife crime at Downing Street on Monday.
Mrs May – who was widely criticised for saying there was no link between police cuts and knife crime – warned that “we cannot simply arrest ourselves” out of the problem of violent crime and called for a more wide-ranging approach.
The Home Office recently handed police stop-and-search powers, overturning reforms made by Mrs May five years ago.
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