Targeted sound blaster becomes law enforcement weapon
A dish-shaped sonic weapon, called a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), is becoming a new tool for fighting crime and controlling crowds.
The LRAD consists of a highly directional hailing, warning and deterrent system. Police officers can use the LRAD as a high-powered megaphone to clearly transmit critical information and warnings over large distances for crowd control.
In addition, the system transmits powerful deterrent tones, by which piercing sound can cause pain, nausea, disorientation and possibly even hearing damage. For instance, LRAD’s sound blasts could be used on a barricaded and armed suspect who refuses to surrender.
San Diego-based American Technology Corp. invented the device for the U.S. military after the USS Cole was bombed by a suicide craft in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000. Today, the U.S. military is the largest purchaser of LRADs. Applications include border security, coastal surveillance, search and rescue missions and long-range communications.
Local public safety agencies also increasingly adding the acoustic weapon to their crime-fighting toolboxes. About a dozen public safety agencies, including police departments in Sacramento and Santa Ana, Calif., have purchased the devices. The Santa Ana SWAT team used the LRAD sound blasts to force the surrender of 10 gang members barricaded in a house. In New York City, police officers used LRAD’s megaphone feature for crowd control during the 2004 Republican Convention.
“This is just a tool in a toolbox,” said Sgt. Dave Newman, a San Jose SWAT officer who commented on the city’s recent purchase of the device. “We try to come up with tools that will provide a safe solution to the problem. That’s why we have Tasers. That’s why we have pepper spray.”
Newman compared the sound blaster to a tactic used in San Jose during the 1980s, when a blaring Led Zeppelin song was used to wear down a suspect.
Various models available
Product line includes LRAD 1000, which can convey a verbal warning in excess of 500 m and has the capability of following up with a warning tone of 151 dB. LRAD 500 offers a range beyond 300 m for conveying messages, along with a deterrent tone of 145 dB. Both models transmit messages loud and clear in a highly directional beam. This focused beam overcomes ambient noise, while reducing the risk of exposing nearby personnel or innocent bystanders to harmful audio levels.
A remotely operated version (LRAD-R) allows system operators to confront potential threats while stationed in a safe environment. Transmitted across an IP network, LRAD-R can create a complete solution for securing perimeters and tracking threats.
For more information about the LRADs, visit http://www.atcsd.com/.