"A Flock of Seagulls" once crooned, "You're trying to hide away from me, away from me. Don't you know that you can run but you can't hide away?"
Criminals will soon find truth in those lyrics if they try to conceal themselves from the long arm of the law. DKL International now offers a solution to help law enforcers find bad guys wherever they hide.
The Vienna, Virginia, company, offers LifeGuard, a handheld ultra-low frequency electric field detector designed to spot a human electric field. With this device in hand, officers can scan buildings, vehicles or other areas where direct observation of the presence of human beings is prevented or dangerous.
To date, LifeGuard is prominently used in Asia, where public safety officials deploy it to track signs of life after earthquakes and mining disasters, detect people in burning structures, scan shipping containers, and hunt for illegal immigrants on coastal freighters or fishing boats. DKL also positioned LifeGuard teams at the World Trade Center for the first 10 days after 9/11, and these searchers were able to find numerous missing rescue workers.
"Law enforcement folks really need to see this unit," says Chief Stan Tarnowski, suppression section chief at Georgia Fire Academy, a division of the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. "With all the hurricanes, natural disasters and other things we face every day, this equipment should be placed on every rescue truck and patrol vehicle in every fire and police department."
The DKL LifeGuard, Model 1, is a handheld instrument, weighing about 2 pounds. The black plastic case has a pistol grip handle and can be configured for both long- and short-range operations. The range adjustment device (RAD) on the LifeGuard's snout, resembles an antenna, but instead of receiving an electromagnetic signal as a radio or TV antenna does, it detects the edge of an electric field.
To operate, a user simply holds the grip in his hands and aims the RAD in the direction he wishes to scan. The RAD should point slightly outside the area to be searched, notes John Montanio, retired chief of the Culver City (California) Police Department, the first LifeGuard user in the United States. The former deputy director of the anti-drug task force, LA IMPACT, notes if the section to be searched lies directly in front of the user at 0 degrees, he should swing the device clockwise past the area approximately 10 degrees then move it back again.
Whether a person lies in that locale becomes clear after doing this a few times, he says, explaining the device travels very freely when nothing is detected, but stops moving freely when something is.
"When you get a detection, you know you've gotten a detection," he says. "I don't know how to explain it, except that the device kind of drags."
Once the system locks onto a subject, it's possible to track him as he runs. "The snout of the unit moves as the person moves," Tarnowski says. "If they move to the left or the right, the LifeGuard moves with the person."
The first-generation LifeGuard, Model 1, can locate and track any living being up to 500 yards away in open areas, and find individuals at shorter distances when barriers such as concrete walls, steel bulkheads, heavy foliage, earthquakes and up to 10 feet of water stand in the way. It can detect and lock onto a person in 3 to 5 seconds as well as distinguish a human from other animals.
Model 1 presently does not offer digital readouts of search results unless it is connected to a computer. "It's all feel," says Montanio. Departments may purchase this device with or without the ability to connect to a computer. While the unit operates similarly either way, the user receives visual and audio signals in addition to drag when the device is connected to a computer.
DKL president and founder Howard Sidman advises departments purchase the unit with computer hook-up capabilities for training. "Most operators don't take the computer into the field once they've used the product for awhile," he explains. "They feel confident enough to use the equipment without the computer."