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Catching up with LETS-CROWD: Expanding a technological toolbox to keep mass gatherings safe – even in the age of COVID-19

In November 2019’s special feature on innovative technology taking on terrorism, we met the LETS-CROWD project that has developed sophisticated monitoring and planning tools for law enforcement agencies to help increase security during mass gatherings, such as music concerts. We reconnect with them to see how the roll-out of their technology has progressed.

Security

In a world currently dominated by the fight against COVID-19, mass gatherings are currently off the table, but one day in the near future they will return once the pandemic has ended. However, in the meantime, authorities need tools to help them ensure that the requirements imposed by the pandemic, such as social distancing and reduced levels of occupation in public venues, are met. This is how the project LETS-CROWD (Law Enforcement agencies human factor methods and Toolkit for the Security and protection of CROWDs in mass gatherings) has found an additional – and unplanned – use for its results, which are being successfully tested to tackle the challenges brought on by COVID-19. On top of the above, project coordinator ETRA I+D has continued to advance further the technological toolbox that it spearheaded under LETS-CROWD. Some of these tools include the Semantic Intelligence Engine (SIE) that can gather, monitor and analyse information published online in relation to a mass gathering, before and during the event, and the Dynamic Risk Assessment (DRA) that dynamically assesses risk by processing weak signals – suspicious signs of activity that alone do not constitute a threat but can become a risk when taken together. In total, there are seven LETS-CROWD tools.

Two extensions for wider adoption

Wider adoption of the LETS-CROWD tools remains a key priority. “Further to the successful validation of LETS-CROWD results as a supporting tool for the authorities to ensure the implementation of COVID-prevention measures, we reached the conclusion that to have an even larger impact in the market and better ensure civil security, LETS-CROWD results needed to be subject to two main extensions,” outlines Antonio Marqués from ETRA I+D. “The first is to expand their focus from the protection of crowds to the protection of open spaces and soft targets in general, particularly in urban environments. Second, our tools’ capability to handle generic threats should be complemented with specific tools and technologies specialised in the detection and handling of terrorist threats. We plan to achieve this in the framework of a new H2020 initiative.” In parallel to the above, Marqués and his team are continuing to work on the integration of the LETS-CROWD results within the information systems of two law enforcement agencies (LEAs). “Additionally, we have been approached by two other police forces in order to discuss their adoption of the toolkit,” he says. “So, we are definitely very happy about this!” Since the end of the project, which Marqués considers a total success, a number of EU police forces have shared their experiences, have new tools, and as a result of their participation are improving their operations. So, rest assured, even whilst mass gatherings are currently off limits, when they do resume, they are likely to be just that little bit safer thanks to the innovative solutions developed by the LETS-CROWD team.

Keywords

LETS-CROWD, mass gatherings, security, LEAs, law enforcement agencies, COVID-19, coronavirus