Hammersmith Bus Station metal detector trial - more ineffective "security theatre" ?

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The Metropolitan Police in London seem to be engaged in a week long experiment Operation Blunt using a metal detector to search bus passengers for knives in in the combined Bus Station, Tube Station and Shopping Centre complex at the major transport hub of Hammersmith in West London.

The devices are described by our street tech correspondent as:

"Two metal poles with boxes mounted on them, with red and white flashing lights. They are positioned at the bottom of an escalator, about 2 metres away from the end, to avoid interference from the escalator itself."

Informal inquiries and experiments suggest that this equipment is not particularly sophisticated and resembles amateur "treasure hunter" tunable metal detector equipment, in that it is currently set to only detect ferrous objects i.e. iron and steel.

Stainless steel items are not detected !

Refusal to go through the detector seems to trigger a "you must have something to hide" response, tempered by the usual "ethnic" and "yoof" issues, which leads to a "normal stop and search" by the attendant Police Officers (a rare sight, normally).

Yesterday, there were reports of false postives from mobile phones.

Is this simply more security theatre ?

There is only the one machine, covering a single escalator, despite multiple entrances and exits to the building.

What exactly is being tested, the equipment or the human procedures surrounding the deployment of the equipment ?

Apart from the inevitable media press conference to announce the suspiciously named "Operation Blunt" (blunt - knife ? doh !) the actual human and system procedures seem to have failed already.

The Metropolitan Police are meant to operate a policy of giving written reasons for a "stop and search", but already we have eyewitness reports of no warning signs or notification that this equipment has been installed, and there have been several "stops and searches" without giving people an oral or a written reason for doing so.

Under what legal power are these metal detector stops and searches being conducted ? Is it the Anti-terrorism Act or the Police Act 1997 ? Police do have the power to designate an area e.g. around a football match or a demonstration march in the street, where there is a potential for violence, and to conduct searches of people for hidden weapons. Has Hammersmith been so designated, and if so, exactly which areas, for how long, and under whose authority ?

Usually, a Police Officer must have some grounds of "reasonable suspicion" before stopping and searching someone.

Setting off a crude metal detector whilst going through the public transport system is not "reasonable grounds for suspicion", it is akin to a policy of "random" stops and searches, which is both wasteful of police resources, and an affront to the civil liberties of the vast majority of innocent people who are stopped and searched in this way.

Several police officers are needed to guard the equipment itself from being damaged or stolen. Are any arrests or genuine "stops and searches" more statistically significant than one would expect due to the actual physical presence of those same police officers, actually "on the beat" but without the metal detectors ?

Is the plan to install this equipment on a permanent basis ? Airport style "security theatre" queues on London Buses and Underground Railways would surely grind the transport system to a halt.

Or is this whole thing just a temporary publicity stunt for the politicians and senior police officers to be seen to be tackling knife crime ?

Admittedly, the technology being "tested" is not quite as intrusive as the various attempts to deploy "See Under Your Clothes" scanners, but since it is obviously cheaper than these, the temptation to deploy yet another surveillance technology may be attractive to those in power who grasp at technological magic fixes in the vain hope that they will solve social problems.

Update: Here are some video capture stills from a brief ITN news clip illustrating the device discussed above:








 Hammersmith Bus Station Metal Detector - Floor

Floor shot of the Metal Detector unit tested out at Hammersmith Bus Station / Shopping Centre.

 Control Box closeup

Control box closeup

 Police presence - would they be just as effective without the metal detector ?

Policemen and the Metal Detector poles. Where are the warning notices about this automated search system ?


7 Comments

The BBC now have a report and a photo of the system in action at Hammersmith:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4078019.stm

It looks as if the metal detectors have been "moved elsewhere" as of Thursday.

This makes the "week long" experiment totally worthless.

This is no way to conduct any sort of proper experiment or trial, especially if this is meant to be the basis for a decision to deploy the technology and human operating procedures more widely.

Re, the BBC report.
The Guy that did a runner was indeed carrying a large knife, but it was made of "stainless steel" and if he had gone through the scanner it would not have been picked up, just like it missed my multi tool.
I spoke to the head copper that was there and asked why I got through? and he said the machine is only tuned to ferrous metals and wouldn`t have seen it....
Oh, and there was no sign of warnings that I was going to be electronically scanned Hmmm...is this against the law?
+:-)

The Register has a few more details:

The Met goes psyops with bus station weapons 'detector'
By John Lettice
Published Thursday 9th December 2004 14:51 GMT

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/12/09/weapons_scanner_psyops/

"The deployment is described as a pilot, for this week only, and the overall exercise is taking place in Hammersmith, Sutton and Southwark, with a rollout to the rest of of London planned in the future. A rollout of what is not entirely clear."

There is also mention of the "see under your children's clothes" x-ray machines:

http://www.mpa.gov.uk/committees/mpa/2004/040930/10.htm

"The x ray machine will therefore be taken to "key public events for demonstration purposes to illustrate to young people the technology available for detecting the carrying of knives. It will provide an opportunity for the exhibitors of this equipment to discuss with young people the reason why knives are so prevalent and what could be done to prevent them being carried."

So, impressively, there's a conventional metal detector at Hammersmith operating under conditions where it can't rationally detect much useful, and a more sophisticated x ray scanner which is largely inappropriate for live deployments being used as part of a marketing campaign to show young people what the technology can do (except it can't really), and to engage them in discussion about knife crime."

Home Office Questions, 10th January 2005:

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2005-01-10.206615.h&m=889#g206615.r0

"Mark Oaten (Winchester, LDem)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what powers have been used to (a) X-ray and (b) stop and search individuals suspected of carrying knives at Hammersmith bus station as part of "Operation Blunt"; and how many individuals have been arrested for knife crimes as a result.

Caroline Flint (Don Valley, Lab)

The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police informs me that a metal detecting scanner was used at Hammersmith bus station as part of "Operation Blunt". Individuals were only searched if the officer had grounds to do so under Section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. Three individuals were arrested as a result of the operation for offences connected to the possession of knives."

So how many "stop and searches" would a couple of policemen (as in th photos) have conducted *without* the metal detector ?

Why was the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs frontbench spokesman under the impression that this was an "X-Ray" device ? Perhaps the LibDems do not read this blog.

Hello,
Good Day, this is Terry Barry, I will like to place an order for the product below,

PRODUCT NEEDED:-
GARRETT SUPERSCANNER HANDHELD METAL DETECTOR...30,UNIT


ATTN :-
SHIP TO :--
Mrs.Mary Martins,
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So i want you to email me the quotations for the product above and the shipping charges for overnight shipment to the address above, calculate altogether
and email me the total charges.I will send you my credit card account for the payment of the order, so i will like to know which type of account do you accept for payment ( MASTER CARD OR VISA CARD)
Expecting to read back from you soon.
Thank You,
Terry Barry.

Sorry but on 8/10/08 me MUNA OSMAN i have lost my oyster card on the 267 this morning around 8:00.The bus i was on i left it on the back off the bus on the right and the bus was going to hammersmith bus station. Please if you do find it sent it to My address which will hopefully be on my oyster card system. Also my oyster was in card holder and had my brentford school for girls lunch in it. Thank you

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers