Lansing – The Capitol on Monday will deploy new technology that uses artificial intelligence to analyze gun surveillance videos and alert authorities to potential threats.
ZeroEyes has recently been deployed at Oxford High School in Oakland County and other locations around the country, but Monday will mark the first time it has been used in a Capitol building.
The software is one of the latest security upgrades at the Statehouse, which first began using weapon detection equipment at each of its entrances in August.
The additions come in response to an “increasingly tumultuous” political climate and pandemic-era protests that saw armed individuals gain entry to the floor of the House of Representatives and mill in the Senate gallery.
“I want visitors and those who come to work here every day to understand that no matter the external conditions, our building remains a safe haven, and that ZeroEyes plays a critical role in ensuring that safety,” said Rob Blackshaw, Executive Director of the Michigan. State Capitol Commission. “The accuracy of the technology and the skill of the staff are truly exceptional.”
The company said in a statement that it is proud of ensuring the safety of the historic building.
“We are currently witnessing an alarming increase in political violence, and the Michigan State Capitol’s commitment to ensuring the safety of its staff and community is commendable,” Mike Lahiff, CEO and co-founder of ZeroEyes, said in a statement.
ZeroEyes is essentially a software system that connects to existing surveillance cameras that monitor the inside of the building and the Capitol grounds. The technology uses artificial intelligence to identify firearms on Capitol grounds or inside the building and relays that information to an operations center staffed with former military and law enforcement officers.
The operations center assesses the situation to determine if the threat is justified and, if so, sends alerts and information regarding the weapon type, location or visual description to Capitol security teams. That assessment and warning comes within 3 to 5 seconds of the warning.
Earlier this year, the Michigan State Capitol Commission expanded the ban on open carry to include concealed carry within the Capitol, with an exception for lawmakers with concealed carry permits. Because the ban does not apply to the Capitol grounds, any flag of firearms on the grounds will be used to monitor if a person is moving toward the statehouse in an attempt to bring in the firearm, Blackshaw said.
The technology costs about $3,000 a month, Blackshaw said.
The Capitol commission in August installed transit gun detection equipment at five main entrances to the building. Those devices cost between $3,000 and $4,000 a month, Blackshaw said.
Additional House and Senate sergeants and Michigan State Police troopers were hired to help with the extra security measures.
Concerns about the continued presence of firearms in the Capitol arose three years ago after a pandemic lockdown protest spilled into the Capitol on April 30, 2020, with many demonstrators openly carrying firearms and attempting to gain access to the chamber floor. Several men with rifles slung over their shoulders stood in the Senate gallery, looking out at the senators.
Democratic Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel informed the committee later that year that she had the power to restrict or ban guns in the Capitol under her responsibility for visitor safety.
Months later, after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, the committee voted unanimously to ban the open carrying of firearms inside the Capitol. Open carry was and still is allowed on Capitol grounds. Under the 2021 policy, concealed carry was allowed to continue within the Capitol.