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Firm: Hi-tech scanner could cut crime and customs fraud

Equipment ‘x-rays’ vehicles for weapons
  • Vonn Co. Ltd. supplies non-intrusive inspection systems.

Guardian Business Reporter

Published: Sep 20, 2013

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As the average Bahamian becomes more security conscious in the face of escalating crime, a local security firm estimates that its security technology can almost halve the incidents of crime against property where installed.

It is a bold claim, but Vonn Co. Limited’s Director Herbert Styles Sr. said the technology has reduced crime and other illicit activity by as much as 40 percent in some areas where it is used.

Vonn Co. Ltd. supplies non-intrusive inspection systems, manufactured by American Science & Engineering, a company based out of Boston.

The technology comes in different forms: It can be stored in a vehicle that resembles an armored truck which can be parked so that cars with suspected contraband can be driven past, or the vehicle can be driven through the streets and scan parked cars.

The equipment can also be used to scan moving cars on a highway, in certain circumstances.

In this week’s edition of Da Plunge, Styles said he believes the government would benefit greatly from using the technology in its aggressive crime fight.

“Container smuggling as far as car parts, false documentation on the import of food items in order to evade duty payments, it’s a big revenue stream being lost as we speak in terms of the import of [things] into the country.”

As a result, the group has had meetings with different government agencies over the last few days, namely the Department of Customs, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Security.

“This is something that the government is looking at using. It’s x-ray equipment that can scan containers and can also be used to scan vehicles on the streets for contraband, weapons, explosives and also for human smuggling,” the company’s Director of Technology Garth Ford said.

“Cost is always an issue but I feel when it comes to the safety of the public, the stability of tourism, if you finding money for streets I think public safety is a priority.”

John Hooper, vice president of American Science and Engineering Inc., said his company has sold nearly 700 units of the scanner around the world, mostly to law enforcement agencies in the United States, Latin American, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

“It does allow security forces to obtain this kind of information they need confidentially, so the folks driving the car may not even be aware they are being scanned which is useful and there is no health hazard whatsoever,” he said.

“It doesn’t cause any health hazard or physical damage. It doesn’t scare people or anything like that.”

Hooper said his company is the biggest supplier of non-intrusive inspection systems around the world.

He said his company predominantly uses technology called the backscatter x-ray, which allows cars, trucks, containers and people to be safely scanned.

“Our equipment is used by police forces, customs organizations and military forces around the world to scan quickly but also to identify what we call organic material. So things like explosives, narcotics, liquids, and alcohol – all those kinds of things can be quickly and safely identified using that equipment.

“Here in The Bahamas we’ve been working for some time with government organizations to promote the use of the equipment here on the island in lieu of the growth of the ports business, increasing container traffic into and through The Bahamas, and you’ve got an increasing crime problem in a number of the islands where we think this technology can not only as a deterrent but also as a way to identify vehicles and people carrying weapons, drugs and contraband like that.”


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