Proactive Face Matching Stops Active Shooter Threat

Active shooter incidents in 2021 spiked by 52.5 percent from 2020, according to the FBI. Most 2021 active shooter incidents happened in “commerce” areas, such as shopping malls and grocery stores. In response, retailers are quickly adopting technologies, including face matching, that offer advance warning of threats.

With cutting-edge technology, potential active shooter situations can be identified and interrupted before even one shot is fired.

Recently, a retailer became aware of a potential active shooter threat on a popular social media platform. An unknown and unverified individual made a direct threat of gun violence in his post, and he suggested that customers with children avoid the retailer’s store.

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The retailer did not know if the social media profile’s name and photo represented a real person. Minutes after the threat was posted, the retailer ran the profile photo through the FaceFirst Visitor Search Investigation tool. The tool instantly determined whether the person of interest had visited any of the retailer’s stores in the past 45 days. Within seconds, the search revealed two matches at two locations, one from two weeks back and another just one day prior.

While reviewing the matched events and video, the retailer’s asset protection team made two key observations: the unknown man had a confrontation with a store employee on his most recent visit, and the man wore a lanyard that could indicate an affiliation with another business. This vital new information prompted the retailer to enroll the subject on their FaceFirst watchlist.

The retailer collaborated with local law enforcement and the affiliated business to confirm the man’s identity. Law enforcement officers confirmed the man was a known offender, with a record of violent crimes against another retailer and a history of mental illness. Using face matching technology, the retailer formed a threat profile for the man in less than two hours.

Eight days after the initial threat was identified and confirmed as credible, the man returned to the retailer’s store. As he entered, the FaceFirst system matched his face and immediately generated a match notification. The store management team confirmed the notification and followed the retailer’s policy on the notification: “Do not approach—call LE.”

Law enforcement officers responded quickly and arrested the man nearby. The incident was resolved without violence, and a restraining order was issued soon thereafter. The man has not returned to any of the retailer’s stores since his arrest.

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