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Type of weapons detection system proposed by DPS reportedly has issues detecting weapons

In the first draft of its new safety plan, the district said individual school communities could decide whether to implement weapons detection systems.

DENVER — The type of artificial intelligence weapons detection system proposed in the Denver Public Schools draft safety plan failed to detect knives in a field test and in a New York school where a student stabbed a fellow classmate. 

In its district-wide safety plan, DPS proposes allowing individual schools to decide whether to implement weapons detection systems "similar to those currently being used in other school districts such as Baltimore Public Schools and in sports arenas, airports and courts." 

Baltimore City Schools began using an AI weapons detection system called "Evolv" at four high schools earlier this year. The company said its AI system can tell the difference between personal items and weapons -- and doesn't take as long as metal detectors. It is used at stadiums and in multiple school districts across the country. 

But there are multiple reports of the Evolv system struggling to detect certain types of weapons -- specifically knives.

A 2021 field test in Columbus, Ohio found Evolv detected most handguns, but missed 42% of knives. The test was conducted by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security. The results were reported by 9NEWS sister station WBNS-TV, after the report was obtained by the BBC and security and technology outlet IPVM. 

The Utica, New York school district bought metal detectors to replace its $4 million Evolv system after a student stabbed a classmate in a high school hallway last year. 

"The Evolv Weapon Detection System was designed for use at large arenas or stadiums to prevent incidents of mass casualties and is not adequate or practical for school use," Interim Utica City School Superintendent Brian Nolan said. 

The company said it has upgraded its system four times since the 2021 field test and said "weapons detection is not perfect, but it adds a layer of protection that can help deter, detect and mitigate risk." 

"Evolv Express systems detected and stopped more than 176,000 weapons from entering places where people gathered in 2022 – including over 90,000 guns and over 80,000 knives," the company said.

"Because the district is in the process of gathering information and assessing many options for school safety, we can't comment on specific weapons detection systems," a DPS spokesperson told 9NEWS. "We're continuing to get feedback from our community to create the best possible safety plan for Denver Public Schools."

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